Gas Prices Begin to Tick Upward

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After dropping to the lowest levels since 2009, average gas prices in the United States have increased seven days in a row for a total of two cents per gallon, according to the latest AAA Monthly Gas Price Report. Gas prices had dropped a record 123 consecutive days to an average of $2.03 per gallon before rising for the first time since Sept. 25.

"Many drivers are noticing an uptick in gas prices for the first time in months," stated Avery Ash, AAA spokesman. "It is typical to see gas prices increase this time of year due to refinery issues, yet hopefully the consumer impact will be less problematic given how low prices are today."

The new national average is $2.06 per gallon as of Feb. 2, approximately $1.22 less than one year ago. AAA estimates that U.S. drivers are spending around $365 million less per day on gasoline compared to this time last year.

On Jan. 26, the national average gas price reached a 2015 low of $2.03 per gallon, which was the lowest average since March 27, 2009. Since the national average reached $3.70 per gallon on April 28, 2014, gas prices have dropped about $1.64 per gallon.

For the month of January, the average price of gas was $2.11 per gallon, marking the cheapest monthly average since 2009. This was a steep drop from the previous month, as the average gas price in December was $2.51 per gallon. Additionally, in January 2014, the average was $3.30 per gallon.

A combination of refinery issues and more stable crude oil costs are contributing to the increase in prices, AAA said. Refinery maintenance season is beginning and there have been several refinery upsets, which can limit production.

Gas prices are still relatively cheap across the country, though, with 52 percent of U.S. gas stations selling gas for less than $2 per gallon. The most common price is $1.9999 per gallon, and at least one gas station in every state within the continental U.S. is selling gas for less than $2. No station in Alaska or Hawaii has reached that mark. More than 60 percent of stations were selling gas for less than $2 a week ago.

The five states with the lowest average prices currently are Idaho ($1.85), Texas ($1.87), Oklahoma ($1.87), South Carolina ($1.87) and Utah ($1.87). The five states with the highest average prices are Hawaii ($3.11), Alaska ($2.64), California ($2.45), New York ($2.39) and Vermont ($2.30). Twenty-five states have an average gas price of less than $2 per gallon, down from 28 states last week.

In general, gas prices were at or near seasonal lows in January due to relatively weak demand. Many Americans cut back on driving and traveling during the cold winter months, allowing gasoline supplies to build.

Gas prices are likely to further increase in February due to refinery maintenance and decreased production, according to AAA, which noted it is not uncommon for gas prices to increase 30-50 cents per gallon between early February and mid-spring. During the past five years, gas prices increased by an average of 22 cents per gallon during February.

"It is a good bet that most drivers will pay more for gasoline in March than today," Ash said. "Yet even if gas prices increase as expected, drivers should continue paying at least a dollar less on gasoline than what they spent in recent years during the spring."

Gas prices should remain less expensive than in recent years due to lower crude oil costs. The national average price is not expected to rise above $3 per gallon in 2015, AAA said. It is possible that gas prices could rise more slowly or even drop again if the cost of crude oil sees further significant declines. At present, the crude oil market remains very volatile.

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