Gas prices in Florida average $3.63 per gallon -- seven cents more than a week ago. That makes the Sunshine State the most expensive at the pump in the Southeast.
All of the usual suspects in early spring -- refinery maintenance, increasing demand and the switch to summer-blend fuel -- remain factors. But Mark Jenkins at AAA South in Tampa says other influences are making their presence known.
“A lot of the snowbirds are here in town, there’s an influx of visitors here for spring break and for Major League Baseball’s spring training,” says Jenkins. “And gas stations are reporting a higher demand than usual, because many Northerners are traveling down to Florida, just to catch a break from that relentless winter weather they’ve been seeing up there.”
Last week, AAA’s Fuel Report concentrated on a tightening supply of ethanol. This week, it’s a report on supply by the Energy Information Administration.
And now, anytime gasoline demand spikes, Florida must bid on shipments from the Atlantic basin to prevent a shortage. Another major factor, says Jenkins, is half-a-world away: the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the Crimea that’s putting pressure on crude oil prices.
Pressures on oil and fuel supplies historically have come from the Middle East, and from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries – OPEC. Jenkins says Ukraine – which Adolf Hitler had prized for its oil reserves in World War II – along with Russia have become major players.
While the first summer holiday weekend – Memorial Day – is still nine weeks away, Jenkins says gas prices that are now beginning to plateau could lead to less pain at the pump by then.
“They might still continue inching up here in the coming weeks,” Jenkins says. “But it seems as is a lot of the refineries are coming back online from their maintenance after being down for the past month or so. And so they’ll be able to handle anymore increases in demand across the board.”
While prices continue to inch up for now, they remain well below last year’s peak of $3.88 per gallon. Jenkins says four dollar a gallon gas for this summer is not in the crystal ball.
Self-serve regular averaged $3.47 per gallon in Pensacola on Monday. That’s two cents more than last week, and eight cents more than a month ago. That’s also the cheapest among Florida’s metro areas. The highest gas price is in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, at $3.75.