RICHMOND — Pump prices across the country are getting more expensive as we head into the last weeks of the year.
Since Dec. 14, the national gas price average has jumped 6 cents to $2.22. it is the highest national average since mid-September.
Two factors have contributed to driving up the price at the pump: rising crude oil prices and tightening supply. The domestic price of crude has been steadily rising since November, with prices topping $49/bbl.
Prices have not been this expensive since February, before stay-at-home guidance was introduced across the country because of COVID-19. Prices began to rise last month alongside vaccination news and have only increased with it becoming available.
Last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows U.S. gasoline supply levels sit at 238.7 million bbls, which is 1.6 million bbls more than a year ago. While a healthy supply, the year-over-year surplus has been much greater through the last nine months.
This fact combined with low utilization rates, which are down 11 percent, indicates supply could tighten in weeks ahead especially with refinery consolidations in the northwest and maintenance in the upper Midwest.
However, demand still remains at an extremely low level. AAA believes this factor will impact gas prices, pushing them cheaper in January.
“The recent gas price pump jumps are a bit surprising given December demand numbers are the lowest posted for the month since 1999,” said Morgan Dean, AAA spokesperson. “The increases are likely to be short-lived, especially as holiday road travel is expected to see at least a 25 percent decline.”