Pittsburgh-area gasoline falls to $2.57 a gallon

The streak of lower gasoline prices continues in Pittsburgh.

Pump prices in the Pittsburgh region dropped another tthree cents a gallon in the last week to $2.57 on Monday, according to GasBuddy’s survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania. It was the ninth consecutive week of falling gasoline prices in the region, almost offsetting the price increases seen in April.

Meanwhile, the average price nationally stayed flat at $2.28 a gallon, GasBuddy reported. Earlier this month, U.S. prices hit the lowest average for this time of year since 2005, according to the price-tracking website’s data.

Most years, June has some of the highest gasoline prices of the year because seasonal pressures push up gasoline prices during spring months. Refineries temporarily shut down to produce cleaner-burning gasoline for the summer months, and demand from motorists typically rises with warmer weather. 

Each spring, average U.S. gasoline prices rise 35 cents to 75 cents, usually from February to May, according to GasBuddy’s historical figures. Last year, Pittsburgh-area prices increased 73 cents from February to June.

So far this spring, regional prices are about what they were in February. 

Pittsburgh prices — as well as prices across the country — have been weighed down by slumping global oil prices, which are the biggest factor in American gasoline prices, market analysts say. 

A deal reached in December to cut production among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has not been enough to push prices higher. OPEC members last month agreed to extend those production caps another nine months, but disappointed investors who wanted deeper cuts.

Though global oil price benchmark rose to $56 a barrel earlier in April, it has cooled off in May and June. Last week, it fell to about $45 a barrel, lows not seen since November, before the OPEC deal.

“The downward momentum has continued and may do so again this week, so long as there's no sudden reversal in the price of crude oil,” wrote Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, in the website’s weekly media release. “It's amazing we're staring at some of the cheapest prices of the year as the holiday comes into view.”

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

Compared with previous years, the region’s pumps are on average one cent more expensive than this time one year ago; 31 cents cheaper than in 2015; and $1.26 cheaper than in 2014.

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

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