Tracking the Tank: What factors into gas prices?

Jul 24, 2013

Gas prices can fluctuate based on demand, world politics and severe weather predictions.
Credit Jeffrey Rolinc / flickr

Following a national price peak in February of $3.75 per gallon, gas prices are not predicted to reach any highs this summer, but numbers are still steadily rising.  Many different factors contribute to the cost of fuel including refinery upkeep, Middle East politics and consumer demand. Gregg Laskoski, Senior Problem Analyst for explains the regional gasoline situation.

Consumer demand seemed to be front-end loaded this summer with many families traveling in June rather than July or August.  This came at a time, however, when many of the refineries in the middle of the country began having technical problems.  This has since been resolved, and refineries in the Northeast and Midwest are finally running at nearly full capacity. Laskoski adds that globally the situation with Egypt and the control of the Suez Canal is affecting the United States’ access to crude oil, but is not the biggest factor.

“What’s really pushing down the inventory numbers isn’t that situation, it’s that refineries don’t want to load up on fuel that’s at a higher price today than they expect a month or two months from now,” he explains. Severe weather such as hurricanes also contribute to projected prices.

Laskoski suggested that the prices in Pittsburgh tend to be higher than neighboring regions based on the tax rates of the city.  Similar price discrepancies occur in California, Michigan and New York where gas taxes can be as high as 72 cents per gallon. He does not advise families to change their vacation plans. Rather he notes that money can be saved through means such as buying fewer souvenirs or eating out less instead of cutting a drive short.