This December motorists will not find significant holiday savings at the gas pump. Today’s national gas price average is $2.51, which is 38 cents more than this time last year. While AAA does expect gas prices to decline between now and the end of the year, motorists will still pay the highest November and December gas prices since 2014.
“Despite a forecasted 5 to 20 cents decrease in coming weeks, motorists will see higher than expected December gas prices – especially compared to year-end prices from 2015 and 2016,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “Driving factors for cheaper gas prices this winter include colder temperatures, the threat of inclement weather and online shopping.”
In 2017, gas prices have strayed from typical trends. Historically, year-end gas prices tend to be relatively cheap due to a drop-off in fall gasoline demand around Labor Day and the move to cheaper to produce winter-blend gasoline in mid-September. This year, the typical factors that drive gas prices down in winter were outweighed by the impact of two major hurricanes, steady consumer demand and continued growth in gasoline exports.
2017’s Tumultuous Trends
- Highs and Lows: Summer driving season traditionally brings the highest gas prices of the year and year-end brings the lowest, but not this year:
- 2017 High: $2.67 on September 11
- 2017 Low: $2.23 on July 5
- Exports: According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the first half of 2017 U.S. exports of total motor gasoline averaged a record high of 756,000 b/d, a three percent increase from the first half of 2016. The second half of 2017 has seen this trend continue to climb, with exports peaking to one of their highest points in 2017 – 906,000 b/d – last month.
- Production: According to Baker Hughes, Inc., the total oil rig count is currently 747, which is 273 more rigs than last year’s count at this time.
- South and Southeast: The direct impacts to gasoline production and delivery from the active hurricane season were felt hardest in this region, with nearly a quarter of the U.S. refining capacity shut down during some points of late summer and early fall. Refining capacity has been slowly recovering in the region, increasing production by more than 100,000 barrels per day in the weeks following the storms.
Florida ($2.37) leads the region with the most expensive year-to-date average. New Mexico ($2.30), Georgia ($2.29), Texas ($2.19) and Louisiana ($2.18) round out the top five highest year-to-date gas price averages in the region. South Carolina ($2.12), Alabama ($2.14), Mississippi ($2.15), Oklahoma ($2.15) and Arkansas ($2.15) have the cheapest averages in the region and the country for the year.