U.S. consumers facing the highest gasoline pump prices ever for February may see further increases as global crude oil futures climb and breakdowns and seasonal maintenance at refineries reduce fuel supplies.
Bloomberg reported that prices at the pump are up 14% this year and have risen 33 straight days, according to AAA data. Brent crude in London, the pricing basis for gasoline imports and for oil used by coastal refiners, advanced to a nine-month high Feb. 8.
Unit breakdowns and seasonal repairs reduced refinery processing by 8.3% since mid-December, cutting fuel production, Energy Information Administration data show. Regular gasoline has jumped 45.6 cents this year, the fastest increase in AAA data back to 2005. Prices may peak earlier than they did last year, according to Avery Ash, a spokesman for AAA, the nation’s largest motoring organization.
“What’s driving the price up is the fear we might not have enough supply,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC, an Austin, Texas-based energy consultant. “It’s a national concern.”
The average nationwide pump price gained 1.8 cents to $3.748 a gallon, 19.2 cents higher than a year ago, AAA said on its website today. In 2008, when prices reached an all-time high of $4.114, regular gasoline cost $3.032 on Feb. 18.