WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) — Seasonal trends in retail prices may finally be taking hold in the U.S. gasoline market as prices drop for 10 straight days, motor club AAA said.
AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.24, slightly less than the previous day and the 10th straight day for a decline. The drop in price has been gradual, however, with the national average declining less than 1 percent from last week.
Retail gasoline prices typically decline after the Labor Day holiday in September as school returns to session and the summer travel season ends. By then, refineries are starting to make a winter blend of gasoline, which is less expensive to make because fewer environmental safeguards are needed during cooler months. Those two factors usually combine for low gasoline prices, though a series of refinery issues in the country and two hurricanes have kept prices from dropping.
“Prices continue to wobble as areas of the country impacted by Hurricane Matthew work to replenish supply and several refineries across the country address planned and unplanned facility maintenance,” the motor club said in its weekly retail market report.
Some southern coastal states only recently recovered from Hurricane Hermine and outages associated with the Colonial pipeline. Brief port closures and transit obstacles brought on by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Matthew caused some issues for concerns along the Atlantic coast, though AAA said most of retail pressures have been minimal.
For Great Lakes states, the most volatile market in the country, an end to planned maintenance, and the resolution of unplanned outages at BP’s refinery in Whiting, Ind., the region’s largest, means consumers in that area have seen the largest declines in retail gasoline prices. Indiana saw the largest drop in prices from last week at 6 percent.
On the West coast, typically the most expensive market in the country, brief outages at a PBF refinery in California are over and the region is once again seeing relief at the pump.
In terms of market factors, AAA said prices for consumers are still under the influence of members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major exporters who are considering a coordinated production scheme to influence crude oil prices. Oil prices account for the bulk of the price at the pump, though a price point of around $50 per barrel has held relatively stable over the last few trading sessions.