Gas prices across the country continue to tick upward - including in the Upper Midwest, with the statewide average in Minnesota climbing nearly 20 cents in the past week.

"We knew it was inevitable. The eight-month decline in prices at the pump that brought the national average as low as $1.67 has come to an end," Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for price-tracking website GasBuddy, said in a news release. "The 'plateau,' or pause in price movement, is now behind us as we've had a full week in which the national average has climbed steadily.

"Some areas such as Southern California are weathering significantly higher increases as their refineries transition earlier from 'winter blend' to 'summer blend' production, while Great Lakes states suffer from refinery run cuts. As expected, this is the beginning of the seasonal price climb."

GasBuddy reported Monday that the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Minnesota was about $1.81. That's up from about $1.63 a week ago, but still about 60 cents a gallon cheaper than gas prices a year ago - and more than $2 a gallon lower than prices at this time in 2013, when they were hovering around $3.75 a gallon.

In Wisconsin, the average gas price on Monday was about $1.73 a gallon, up about a dime from a week ago.

Most Duluth and Superior-area stations were selling gas for about $1.69 a gallon on Monday. Gas prices on the Iron Range were about $1.80 to $1.85 in most communities, GasBuddy reported; Twin Cities-area stations were averaging about $1.84 a gallon.

Nationwide, the average price of gas on Monday was about $1.75 a gallon, up about 4 cents from last week.

Demand increasing

Meanwhile, demand for oil in the U.S. rose modestly in December from a year earlier, the first rise since August, as warm weather and low prices at the pump boosted driving rates, offsetting lackluster demand for heating oil, government data showed Monday.

Total U.S. oil demand rose by 87,000 barrels per day in the nation's warmest December on record, or 0.4 percent compared with the same month last year, to 19.5 million bpd, the highest for the month since 2010, Energy Information Administration data showed.

The modest growth was fueled in large part by robust demand for gasoline as low prices at the pump and lower unemployment rates boosted driving rates.

Wallace E. Tyner, an energy economist at Purdue University, said the warm weather and low gas prices propelled more people to drive in December, with some choosing a car over a plane to travel to holiday gatherings.

"I can tell you that I am looking at a family reunion in Maine, an 18-hour drive, and I am thinking of driving," Tyner said. "Gas prices are cheap, but airlines have not dropped prices."

Gasoline demand rose by 203,000 bpd in December, or 2.3 percent. Average U.S. gasoline prices were the lowest for the month since 2008, EIA data showed.

Last week, data showed American drivers logged 264.2 billion miles on U.S. roads and highways in December, the most ever for the month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Overall, U.S. gasoline demand was 9.2 million barrels per day in 2015, the most since 2007, federal data showed Monday.

 

Reuters contributed to this report.