Gasoline prices surge to $2.61 a gallon in Pittsburgh region




The average price of gasoline in the Pittsburgh region increased 4 cents a gallon in the last week to $2.61 on Monday, according to GasBuddy’s survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania.

It was the third consecutive week of increasing pump prices in the region after gasoline slowly but steadily declined for much of May, June and July.

Meanwhile, the average price nationally increased 2 cents during the week to $2.34 a gallon, GasBuddy reported.

The increases are normally larger and more frequent during the summer months, when motorists usually see the most expensive fuel prices of the year. Most years, seasonal pressures push up gasoline prices during summer months as 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.

This year, regional prices sit around about what they were at the beginning of the year. 

Pittsburgh prices — as well as prices across the country — have been weighed down by slumping global oil prices, which are the biggest factor in U.S. gasoline prices. The global oil price benchmark fell as low at $42 a barrel in June. 

In recent weeks, however, oil prices have staged a minor rally as oil producing countries try to cut production to bring supply back in line with demand. Political turmoil in Venezuela, a major oil producer, also contributed to boosting prices to $52 a barrel last week.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said gasoline prices are likely to keep rising. 

“For the third straight week, gasoline prices have accelerated with the national average at its highest level in over eight weeks, driven by rising oil prices as inventories continue to tighten and concern over Venezuela,” said  "We're likely to see gas prices continuing to move higher in the week ahead.”

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 31 cents more expensive than this time one year ago; 18 cents cheaper than this time in 2015; and $1.08 cheaper than this time in 2014. 

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

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