Americans enjoyed the lowest quarterly prices at the gas pump in a dozen years, during the first three months of 2016. But the historical spring rise is now underway.
Motorists saved about $10 billion on gas so far this year, compared to the same period in 2015 according to AAA.
“Oil production here in the United States is up compared to recent years,” said Josh Carrasco at AAA-South in Tampa. “And with OPEC coming back online you see more supply in countries like Iran. And Saudi Arabia is not cutting production as in years past. That’s causing the price of oil to go down and in turn, keeping gas prices low.”
This year’s savings are in addition to the $120 billion Americans saved over the course of 2015 compared to the previous year, which was about $565 per licensed driver.
In Pensacola, self-serve regular averages $2.10 per gallon – 23 cents higher than a month ago. But Carrasco points to a couple of factors that are beginning to place upward pressure on prices, one being high demand.
“People are just driving more,” Carrasco said. “Gas prices are cheaper than in recent years. Also, we’re in refinery maintenance season and during that time, there’s a little less gas being produced so they can get ready for the real busy summer travel season.”
While gas prices are expected to rise in the not-too-distant future, Carrasco says it’s important to keep things in perspective by looking back at the not-too-distant past.
“Nationally we’re looking at an increase of about 35 cents a gallon compared to some of the lows we saw earlier in the year,” said Carrasco. “But when you look at the numbers compared to what we were paying in 2014 we’re seeing gas prices about $1.50 less.”
Most drivers are paying $4-$9 more per gallon to fill up their vehicles today compared to mid-February, and prices are expected to keep going up for the time being. But even at those levels, AAA’s Josh Carrasco says seasonal prices would still be less expensive than in recent years.
The current high demand for fuel reflects Americans’ spending a record amount of time on the road -- just over three trillion miles last year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. And we could be on pace to eclipse that mark by the end of this year.