Harvey not affecting Pittsburgh gasoline prices — for now

You have not been imagining it — pump prices have not budged in a while.

Volatile forces in the gasoline market, including fears of supply disruption from Hurricane Harvey and a global glut in crude oil weighing down prices, appear to have balanced each other out in the Pittsburgh region.

For the third consecutive week, gasoline prices averaged $2.61 Monday morning, according to GasBuddy.com’s real-time survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the average U.S. gasoline price increased by 5 cents during the week to $2.38 a gallon, GasBuddy reported.

The flat prices in August is more good news for motorists after gasoline prices fell slowly and steadily for most of the summer. For 12 weeks spanning May to July, fuel prices dropped by about 18 cents on average.

That stands in contrast with most summers, when drivers see the biggest gasoline price increases of the year. Most summers, seasonal pressures push up gasoline prices during summer months as demand from motorists typically rises with warmer weather. 

Last year, Pittsburgh-area prices rose 73 cents during the spring and summer months.

Any disruption in refinery operations from the powerful hurricane that hit the Texas coast last week could be delayed, warned Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“Gas prices are up in many places and motorists should be gearing up for more in the coming weeks, thanks to Hurricane Harvey inundating significant refineries along the Texas coastline,” wrote Mr. DeHaan in the price-tracking website’s weekly media release. “Prices will likely rise nearly country-wide heading into Labor Day, from rural towns in the Rockies to major cities in the Midwest and West Coast — nearly everyone will feel a bit of a pinch at the pump from Harvey.”

He added that higher prices “could linger for several weeks or longer, depending on how long it takes Texas refiners to return to normal operations.”

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 21 cents more expensive than this time one year ago; six cents cheaper than this time in 2015; and 96 cents cheaper than this time in 2014.

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

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