Gasoline prices weighed down by plunge in oil prices




After rising more than 20 cents in April, the average gasoline price in the Pittsburgh region fell 2 cents in the last week and sits around $2.69 this morning, according to GasBuddy’s survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The downward shift is a remarkable move as gasoline prices usually continue to increase through May. 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. So far this spring, prices have increased 18 cents. 

Pittsburgh prices — as well as prices across the country — have been weighed down by global oil prices, which are the biggest factor in American gasoline prices. Despite hovering above $56 a barrel through much of 2017, the global oil price benchmark this morning hovers just above $49 a barrel.

“Gasoline prices in much of the country are eroding at a time of year when such a downward fall is anything but par for the course,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, in the website’s weekly media release. “This year's usual spring rally has been the weakest in recent memory.”

The primary reason: Strong oil production in the U.S. and around the world has worried investors that the years-long glut in supply will continue. This comes despite a deal reached in December by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries a deal to cut production among its members, led by Saudi Arabia. 

“OPEC must soon decide how much market share it will sacrifice to keep oil prices higher — clearly the last cut just isn't enough,” Mr. DeHaan wrote. 

Pittsburgh-area gasoline is 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 11 cents more expensive than this time one year ago; 16 cents more expensive than in 2015; and $1.16 cheaper than in 2014.

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

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