Pittsburgh-area gasoline prices continue rare springtime decline

Average gas pump prices in the Pittsburgh region sit around $2.51 a gallon Monday morning, down 1 cent from last week, according to GasBuddy’s survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania. Prices have dropped 3 cents in the last month, not a huge margin until you consider that prices usually rise several cents a week by this time of year.

In the springtime, the seasonal pressures typically push up gasoline prices as refineries temporarily shut down to produce cleaner-burning gasoline for the summer months. 

Each spring, average U.S. gasoline prices rise 35 cents to 75 cents from February to May amid temporary refinery shut-downs and higher demand for gasoline as Americans drive more with warmer weather, according to GasBuddy’s historical figures.

Last year, Pittsburgh-area prices increased 73 cents from late-February to mid-June.

But Pittsburgh prices have fallen gradually through February and March as global oil prices — the biggest influence in American gasoline prices — have remained flat. In the last week, global oil price benchmark hovers around $51 a barrel.

The drop comes despite an international agreement brokered in November by major oil producers — members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as well as countries outside of that group — that went into effect to limit production. The agreement aims to alleviate a global oversupply that has weighed down prices for more than two years.

Since the global oil price benchmark hit $58 a barrel in early January — the highest mark since the summer months of 2015 — oil prices eased.

Analysts have been off in their prediction of when gasoline would rise. Six weeks ago, GasBuddy analysts “called bottom,” predicting U.S. prices would begin rising. That did not happen, with the U.S. average falling one cent a gallon in the last week to $2.28 this morning.

“Remarkably, for a third straight week, average gasoline prices have declined,” wrote Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, in the site’s weekly media release. “In fact, for just the first time since 2009, average gasoline prices today stand cheaper than on February 15th — traditionally the day of the lowest gasoline prices of the season.”  

Pittsburgh-area gasoline is already higher than in most of the country. Pennsylvania has the seventh-most expensive price per gallon, in part because the state has the highest fuel taxes in the country, according to GasBuddy.com.

Daniel Moore: dmoore@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.



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