Late February typically marks the time when many of the nation’s oil refineries undergo seasonal maintenance to begin churning out the more costly, cleaner-burning gasoline types that are less prone to evaporation during the hotter summer months.
“We’re likely to see some major increases at the gas pump as the seasonal transition and refinery maintenance get underway,” said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices and refining activity.
Most parts of the country will see prices peak at under $3 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. While that’s cheaper that some previous years, it still represents higher pricing than the past two years. “Watching prices surge every spring certainly brings heart burn with it,” McTeague added.
GasBuddy is projecting fuel prices to rise as high as 75 cents a gallon from today’s lows, peaking at some point in May. America’s daily gasoline bill will swell from today’s $788 million to as much as $1.1 billion daily by Memorial Day.
Fuel prices rose late last year but peaked in early January and actually came down a little bit in recent weeks. The Houston-area average Wednesday was $2.09 a gallon, down from a high of $2.14 in early January. The national average Wednesday morning was $2.28 per gallon.
Last year, the national average jumped 69 cents from the winter to the summer driving season, from a low of $1.69 to a high of $2.39. In 2015, the increase peaked at 78 cents.