As temperatures rise, so do gas prices

Mark Rudo of Milton tops off his car’s fuel tank in Dover Monday. Gas prices are expected to keep on rising and then level off by Memorial Day weekend. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — Filling his gas tank at a Wawa on DuPont Highway in Dover on Monday, Camden resident Darryl Taylor said he’s noticed that gas prices have been on the rise for several weeks.

“It’s been slowly climbing up, it’s one of those things you don’t notice unless it happens really fast,” he said.

Mr. Taylor is one of the many motorists who are in for the most expensive driving season in years, predicts the American Automobile Association.

“Unfortunately for motorists, the laws of supply are in full effect here,” said AAA regional spokesman Ken Grant. “We are continuing to see some gas price increases at the pump and we expect to continue to increase another five to ten cents by Memorial Day.”

In Delaware, gas prices have remained at an average of $2.76 per gallon after a double-digit spike two weeks ago. This remains under the national average price which was $2.81 per gallon as of Monday, according to AAA data. The prices are the highest for this time of year since 2014.

Several fairly ordinary seasonal fluctuations are likely to blame, thinks Mr. Grant.

“We’ve recently changed to the summer blend, which is a little more expensive to produce,” he said. “The gasoline we get at the pump is all refined a different way depending on what state you’re in and what part of the country. The summer blend is primarily designed to prevent vapor lock in cars and ensure that the run well.”

The other, likely most impactful, factor is demand.

“It’s the driving season,” he said. “Now that we’re having nicer weather, folks are getting out and enjoying it — that helps drive the demand which drives the prices.”

However, neighbors in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are feeling the pinch harder at $2.79, $3.02 and $2.89 per gallon respectively. Mr. Grant says this likely has a bit to do with Delaware’s gas tax rates.

“We’re benefiting from the fact that we’re now the state with the lowest gas tax compared to our neighbors — New Jersey and Pennsylvania increase both their rates recently,” said Mr. Grant. “It’s fair to say that a lot of people commuting between the states or living near the state line are likely filling their tanks here.”

According to the American Petroleum Institute, Delawareans pay a gas tax of 23 cents per gallon to Maryland’s 33.5 cents and New Jersey’s 37.1 cents. Pennsylvania pays the highest gas tax in the country at 58.2 cents.

AAA expects gas prices to plateau around Memorial Day, and then begin to trend slowly back down after Labor Day, but Mr. Grant notes that unforeseen incidents and complicated geopolitical happenings can often cause dramatic fluctuations.

“Unexpected things like breakdowns in production or supply lines can cause things to change quickly,” he said. “Last year we saw some interesting volatility during the hurricane season when some of the oil production was taken off-line in the Houston area. Even things like the U.S. pulling out of the ‘Iran deal’ carry the chance of substantially increasing gas prices. If something like that were to happen, going quickly over $3 per gallon in the state could be possible. It’s all speculation at this point though.”

Mr. Grant said he received an AAA briefing that read:

“Oil prices ticked up higher last week following reports that President Trump will potentially decline to recertify the Iran nuclear deal on May 12 and may impose new sanctions on the country. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded that the country is unwilling to renegotiate the deal it set with the U.S. in 2015 under the Obama administration. The decision to not recertify the deal could increase tensions in the volatile region, leading to global supply disruptions. Crude prices are likely to continue climbing as the May 12 deadline for the recertifying draws near and it becomes increasingly likely that the U.S. will decline to renew it.”

On Monday, President Trump tweeted that he’d be announcing his “decision on the Iran Deal” today at 2 p.m.

To save a few dollars, AAA recommends using its fuel price finder tool at AAA.com/fuelfinder.

As for Mr. Taylor, he said he probably won’t notice if the price rises another five to ten cents.

“For people who commute a long distance every day, it’s going to hurt, but luckily for me I don’t have far to go,” he said. “Obviously I’m not happy that the prices are going up, but as long as the stay under $3.50 a gallon, I’m not going to really think too hard about reducing my driving over the summer.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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