WASHINGTON, D.C. — Motorists could be digging a little deeper into their pockets to fill up this month.
According to AAA, gas prices continue to increase, with the national average up 9 cents on the week to $2.72 as of March 1. That is a 30-cent increase from the beginning of February, 28 cents more than a year ago and the most expensive daily national average since August 2019.
The price increases can be traced back to last month's winter storm that resulted in 26 U.S. refineries going offline and pushing refinery utilization from an average of about 83 percent down to a low 68 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In its latest data, EIA reported demand at 7.2 million barrels per day. Both utilization and demand rates have not been reported this low since May 2020, AAA said.
AAA forecasts the national gas price average to hit at least $2.80 this month — adding up to increases of at least 5 cents to 10 cents in local markets until refinery operations are stable.
"Barring hurricane season, March may bring the most expensive pump prices of 2021," said Jeanette Casselano McGee, AAA spokesperson. "While the month is roaring in like a lion, by the end of it we could see some relief at the pump as refineries resume normal operations, especially if crude oil prices show signs of stability."
While California ($3.68) and Hawaii ($3.46) started the year above the $3 per gallon mark, a few other states have followed or are close to following suit. They are Washington ($3.09), Nevada ($3.01), Arizona ($2.98), Pennsylvania ($2.95), Oregon ($2.95), Illinois ($2.89), Washington, D.C. ($2.88), and Alaska ($2.87).
Today, every state average is more expensive on the week and the month. Only three states have averages cheaper year-over-year. They are Hawaii (10 cents), Alaska (7 cents) and Oregon (3 cents).