Increased refinery production drives down Northland gas pricesNorthland motorists got an unexpected and very unusual gift from the Easter Bunny this year: Lower gas prices at a time of year when prices are usually hopping up.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Northland motorists got an unexpected and very unusual gift from the Easter Bunny this year: Lower gas prices at a time of year when prices are usually hopping up.
GasBuddy.com reports that the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Minnesota fell 3.3 cents per gallon in the past week to $3.54. That compares to an average of $3.70 one month ago and $3.80 one year ago in Duluth.
John Paulseth, 16, has been driving for just two months and was filling up his dad’s car Tuesday night at the D&C Gas & Convenience station in Lakeside, where gas was $3.54 for the second day in a row.
“I like it when they’re low,” he said.
The attendant at D&C said customers have noticed the falling prices. The Super America a block away was down to $3.54, too, on Tuesday.
GasBuddy surveys 2,856 gas outlets in Minnesota and runs MinnesotaGasPrices.com. Across Minnesota on Tuesday, prices ranged from $3.40 to $3.73. The national average price was $3.61.
Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst, said this may have been the largest-ever decline in gas prices during March.
“For the first time in a decade, gasoline prices are going to be lower at the end of March than the beginning,” DeHaan said in a release. “GasBuddy data shows that the last time this happened was in 2003, when prices fell a nickel.”
Prices this week are nearly 18 cents per gallon lower than a year ago and are 16.8 cents a gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 10.3 cents a gallon during the past month and stands 28.1 cents a gallon lower than this day one year ago.
AAA this week released a report showing similar results but slightly different numbers. The auto club showed a $3.63 national average, down a dime per gallon from 2012 and down 15 cents from February.
“It is very unusual for gas prices to decline in early spring like we have seen this year,” said Avery Ash, AAA spokeswoman, in announcing the report. “An increase in refinery production and lower oil prices in early March have combined to provide rare falling prices for motorists in comparison to recent years.”
Ash predicts that prices in April will remain lower than in recent years because oil is cheaper and refinery production is rising. The price of crude oil is about $6 per barrel less than a year ago, she said, while refinery production has increased by about 5 percent since early March, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
Gas prices usually rise in spring and peak in summer. But Ash predicts a lower summer peak price this year than last year, and below the dreaded $4.
“AAA has no record of gas prices ever peaking in February, and it is too early to say whether prices may have hit a high for the first half of the year,” Ash said. “While it is possible that gas prices may surge briefly again this spring, the national average should remain less than last year’s high of $3.94 per gallon.”
News Tribune staff writer Mike Creger contributed to this report.