Pittsburgh-area gasoline edges up to $2.66 a gallon

Though weeks late this year, the seasonal rise in gasoline prices has officially arrived.

Gas pumps in the Pittsburgh region sit around $2.66 a gallon Monday morning, up 7 cents from one week ago, according to GasBuddy’s survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Prices have increased 15 cents since the beginning of April — a 6 percent jump — after virtually no movement through the first three months of 2017.

Still, the price increase in this region is expected to be significantly smaller than previous years.

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, usually from February to May, as refineries temporarily shut-down to perform maintenance and as demand grows for gasoline from motorists hitting the road more often in 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 stayed flat through February and March as global oil prices — the biggest influence in American gasoline prices — hovered just above $50 a barrel. Analysts have been off in their prediction of when gasoline would rise. GasBuddy analysts “called bottom” in February, predicting U.S. prices would begin rising. 

But during the past couple weeks, the global oil price benchmark staged a rally to about $56 a barrel. On Monday, GasBuddy analysts attributed the April rise in prices to the normal springtime forces.

“The national average gasoline price climbed to its highest level since September 5, 2015 on the $6 per barrel rise in oil prices over the last few weeks, supported by last week's decline in oil inventories and pressure from geopolitical tensions,” wrote Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, in the website’s weekly media release.

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.

The region’s pumps are on average 40 cents more expensive than this time one year ago; 7 cents more expensive than in 2015; and $1.04 cheaper than in 2014. 

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

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