On average in Maryland, a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.65.
The continuing increase in the retail price of gasoline remains bothersome to motorists. This week consumers in nearly half of the states (23), including Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, encountered year-over-year price increases when they pulled up to the self-serve gas kiosk. If the upward drift continues, energy analysts fear the higher-than-a-year-ago price contagion will spread to other states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia.
As of Friday, motorists across the nation find themselves paying 10 cents more than they did a week ago. In Maryland, the price has jumped 14 cents in the past week.
This is the seventh straight week gas prices have risen and analysts are rounding up the usual suspects for this’s week jump in prices. They are pointing the finger of blame at the series of mishaps at key refineries throughout the country, economic news both domestically and internationally, serious political unrest in Syria, continuing tensions in the Middle East, and concerns of the effects on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that might be caused by Tropical Storm Ernesto.
Crude oil prices also continue to rise, having closed yesterday at $93.36 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).
"Motorists in many parts of the country are seeing a reversal in gas prices and in some cases are paying higher prices for a gallon of unleaded regular than they did at this time last year," said Ragina C. Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. "Nationally, that happened this Thursday for the first time in 107 days, ending a streak dating back to April 24, 2012. Maryland’s average price today is the same as a year ago. While this is discomforting, the trend will likely not continue. We continue to hope that by Labor Day prices at the pump will go back down to more manageable levels."
The recent surge in gas prices has been partially the result of recent positive economic news and a broader bullish sentiment for U.S. equities and commodities markets alike. Beyond this rising market tide, supply disruptions in the Midwest, centering on the Enbridge pipeline shutdown in Wisconsin last Tuesday, have sent prices up in that state and spilling over to nearby regions as well.
There seems to be no short term end to gas prices continuing their climb next week. Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) upgraded its hurricane season prediction for the entire Atlantic Basin through November. It calls for 12 to 17 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher with five to eight hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher and two or three Category 3, 4 or 5 major hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph). NOAA’s original May forecast called for 9-15 named storms with 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes.
Continuing unrest in the Middle East and ongoing instability in the global economy remain concerns as well.