Mar 5, 2024 - Business

Gas prices rise ahead of spring break season

Data: GasBuddy; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: GasBuddy; Chart: Axios Visuals

Brace for rising gas prices this March and April with the average national price climbing 10 cents, according to GasBuddy data.

Why it matters: Gasoline prices can drive consumer sentiment and how positively or negatively Americans view the economy.

By the numbers: The nation's average gasoline price for unleaded climbed 10 cents to $3.34 per gallon Sunday from a week before, according to GasBuddy data.

  • The national average is up 22 cents from a month ago but 3.2 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.
  • Regular unleaded had the highest recorded average price of $5.016 per gallon in June 2022, AAA data shows.

Between the lines: Prices are rising ahead of the annual switch to a higher grade of gasoline known as summer blend, which is more expensive to make, according to NACS, the trade organization for fuel and convenience stores.

  • Gas prices have increased seasonally about 50 cents from a low at the beginning of February to the seasonal high in May since 2000, NACS said.

Zoom in: Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said the "pinch at the pump has been manageable" but that "will likely change as we enter the madness we tend to see in March with refinery maintenance hitting its peak."

  • The maintenance impacts how much gasoline can be produced during the changeover to the summer blends, De Haan said.
  • Prices typically start to fall in May around Memorial Day.

Yes, but: Spring break season is another reason for higher prices and rising demand, said Aixa Diaz, AAA spokesperson, in a blog post.

What's next: Fuel terminals — think storage and distribution facilities — are required to sell only summer gasoline on May 1, while gas stations have until June 1 to complete the changeover to summer gasoline.

  • Retailers must sell summer-blend gas from June 1 to Sept. 15, which is required under the Clean Air Act's 1990 amendments. Most retailers switch over early.
  • Prices typically start to fall in May around Memorial Day.

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