Gas prices up 50 cents in last month

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MOSES LAKE — If you’ve noticed that gasoline prices are up, and up a lot, in the last month, well...you’re not wrong.

Statewide, pump prices for regular unleaded gasoline are up nearly 44 cents per gallon since early March, according gasoline price research and analysis company GasBuddy.

“There’s not much to cheer about, prices are up significantly,” said Dan McTeague, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

Statewide, gasoline prices average $3.28 per gallon, but the spread is wide, with a high of $3.44 in Whatcom County and a low of $2.89 in Spokane County, according to data published by GasBuddy.

The cause of the price spike, according to McTeague, is a series of unexpected refinery outages along the West Coast — including at BP’s 230,000 barrel-per-day Cherry Point Refinery near Blaine, just south of the Canadian border — that has made motor fuels more scarce than they would otherwise be.

“Key refineries are down in California, and not just for maintenance,” McTeague said.

“It really is going to be ugly this week in the West Coast, and any further issues could lead to more spikes, but for the rest of the country expect the rise to continue for a ninth straight week with little good news on the horizon,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

However, McTeague noted that wholesale gasoline prices in Moses Lake — the price of gasoline without the 49.4 cent-per-gallon state gasoline tax and the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal tax — are about 20 cents-per-gallon cheaper than the western part of the state.

Washington state has the nation’s third highest gasoline taxes behind Pennsylvania and California.

In fact, McTeague noted that gasoline retailers in Spokane County are very nearly selling at close to cost.

“That’s a skinny margin in Spokane,” he said. “They may be playing catch-up.”

The retail gasoline price spread in Moses Lake ranges from $2.95 for unbranded gasoline at several locations to $3.29 at a Chevron on West Broadway Avenue, according to the GasBuddy app.

The nation’s highest gasoline prices right now are in California, where they average $3.84 per-gallon, while the lowest average gasoline prices are in Mississippi, where they average $2.45 per-gallon, according to GasBuddy.

Gasoline prices nationwide have risen for the last two months, Gasbuddy reports, following the rise in crude oil prices. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) on the New York Mercantile Exchange has risen from a low of $42.53 in December to close at $64.25 Tuesday, an increase of 51 percent, according to Bloomberg News.

According to the GasBuddy report, California is staring at $4 per-gallon, while McTeague said the rest of the country is possibly looking at $3 per-gallon average gasoline prices even before the arrival of the summer driving season.

“There’s no relief in sight, not for a couple of weeks, not until more refiners come back online,” he said.

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