The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 26, 2014

Pump prices may stay shy of 2013 high

While gasoline prices in the Valley continue to inch upward, experts predict the peak cost this year won’t exceed the $3.79 motorists paid per gallon in 2013, and that drivers should soon see lower costs.

Prices at many Valley gasoline stations hit $3.75 this week, topping the national and state average. On Friday, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.69, according to AAA.

The Pennsylvania average was $3.74, which was 15th nationally.

Motorists in only Hawaii ($4.34) and California ($4.22) pay more than $4 per gallon.

One year ago, the average gasoline price in Pennsylvania was $3.48. In the past month, the price has risen from $3.62 to $3.74, partly because of the state’s increased tax implemented last fall as part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s transportation plan.

“Spring is the most frustrating time of the year for drivers given that gas prices seem to jump every time you get in the car,” AAA spokesman Avery Ash said. “We are seeing the same season hikes this spring, but fortunately gas is not nearly as expensive as in recent years.”

The spike this spring is normal, AAA spokesman Michael Green said Friday. Traditionally prices rise in the spring heading into the Memorial Day weekend, then begin to flatten and even dip before rising again in late summer.

While many think prices rise around the summer holidays, Green said the prices can actually be reasonable.

Bang for your buck on Fourth

“The Fourth of July is interesting because gas can be cheaper,” Green said. “We always see gas prices peak in spring and then as more gas becomes available, it can dip. Then it rises again in August and September.”

Green said AAA’s experts have predicted prices this year will not surpass last year’s high of $3.79. In the summer, he said, prices could drop into the $3.40 range before climbing into the $3.60s around Labor Day.

Pennsylvania’s prices, Green said, could be higher than the national peak.

“Pennsylvania is a little unusual because while the prices nationwide won’t be higher than usual, that might not be the case in Pennsylvania because of taxes,” Green said.

While the fluctuations are standard, Green said $3 gasoline is here to stay — barring a major recession. A recent AAA survey showed that 65 percent of respondents said $3.50 is the limit. Nine of out 10 drivers in AAA’s survey says $4 would change their driving habits.

“People may be less likely to change their habits, but they do not seem any happier at the pumps,” AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelent said in a statement about the survey. “Many drivers grudgingly realize that paying more than $3 per gallon for gasoline is the new normal, but they remain frustrated with the price.”

The last time prices approached $4 was in early spring 2012, when the average hit $3.94. The highest prices came in the summer of 2008, topping out at $4.11. Soon after that, the recession hit and prices dropped from the peak to $1.61 in five months.

“What we are seeing is that peak prices are getting lower and annual averages are getting lower,” said Green, noting that 2012 had the highest annual average and 2013 was cheaper.

“It’s not as bad as it’s been in recent years.”

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