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Concerns of Tighter Availability Send Gas Prices Up

WASHINGTON, D.C. — National gas prices rose for 20 of the past 21 days as of Dec. 19, rising a total of 11 cents during this time. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $2.24 per gallon, which is the highest price since October. The new average is three cents more than one week ago, nine cents more compared to one month ago and 24 cents more than the same date last year, reported AAA.

Prices are continuing to rise due to market expectations of tighter availability following the announcement of an OPEC deal to cut oil production that is scheduled to start in January 2017.

The top five most expensive markets in the United States are Hawaii ($2.95), California ($2.67), Alaska ($2.62), Washington ($2.59) and Washington, D.C. ($2.54), while the top five least expensive markets are Arkansas ($2.02), Oklahoma ($2.02), South Carolina ($2.03), Missouri ($2.04) and Texas ($2.05).

West Coast drivers continue to pay some of the highest prices in the country. Despite this, drivers in many states in this region are seeing some of the most dramatic month-over-month price declines. Idaho has the highest monthly discount at 18 cents per gallon, followed by Nevada (8 cents), Oregon (5 cents), Arizona (5 cents), Washington (5 cents) and California (4 cents).

Recent reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that gasoline production on the West Coast reached a one-month high of approximately 1.6 million barrels per day and gasoline inventories remain at a 15-week high, but a shutdown on the Olympic Pipeline system in the Pacific Northwest temporarily cut into deliveries. Additionally, BP shut down the Olympic Pipeline on Dec. 12 to conduct planned maintenance on the system, which distributes refined product throughout Washington state and Oregon.

Utah was the only state in the Rocky Mountain region to see a price decrease of 4 cents, but area averages remain below $2.50 per gallon.

The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast saw week-over-week price increases. Washington, D.C., is the only market in this region with an average price above $2.50 per gallon at $2.53, and prices on the whole remain moderate, AAA said. Drivers in New Jersey (45 cents), Washington, D.C. (33 cents), Virginia (29 cents), Maryland (27 cents) and Delaware (27 cents) are all spending 25 cents or more per gallon year-over-year.

South and Southeastern states continue to be among the nation's least expensive gas markets with the exception of Florida, where drivers are now paying more than $2.30 per gallon. Arkansas ($2.02) and Oklahoma ($2.02) are the nation’s cheapest markets for retail gasoline, followed by South Carolina ($2.03), Mississippi ($2.03), Texas ($2.05), Alabama ($2.05), Tennessee ($2.05) and Louisiana ($2.07).

The Midwest is often the most volatile area in the country for gas prices, but currently, average prices in most states in this region are increasing on the week with the exception of Michigan ($2.25), where drivers are paying five cents less. Average prices in other states are among the largest increases in the country over the past week: Indiana (8 cents), Wisconsin (7 cents), Ohio (7 cents) and Illinois (3 cents).

In the Central states, Missouri ($2.04) and Kansas ($2.05) are among the top 10 least expensive markets despite significant week-over-week increases of 7 cents and 3 cents, respectively. 

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