America is on track to set a record for highest gas prices at Labor Day, with oil prices nearing $100 a barrel. U.S. refineries are also struggling to bear their load, as a number of outages this year has left them wounded.
This past Thursday the national average for a gallon of regular gas was $3.718, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Just a month earlier that average was at just $3.477.
“Generally speaking, retail gasoline prices tend to taper off in late August as individuals start to exit the summer vacation driving season and return to their regular driving habits,” Kevin Mahn, president and chief investment officer of Hennion & Walsh Asset Management told Market Watch. “This August, this does not appear to be the case.”
Michael Green, a spokesman for the AAA, confirmed that consumers would likely not see a large change going into September.
“Barring any significant market-moving developments, we would expect gas prices for Labor Day 2012 to be slightly higher or nearly the same as today,” he said.
Since late June, oil prices have jumped by about $20 per barrel, a large blow for U.S. refineries in California and the Midwest that have already had difficulties working at full capacity. Mishaps ranging from fires to pipeline spills have reduced the production capabilities of major companies like Chevron and BP.
“Normally, there are very few refinery problems once the creaks and aches of spring are in the rear view mirror,” Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service told Market Watch. “This year, we have seen a cluster of refinery issues. Those issues range from relatively minor problems with equipment, to protracted downtime due to unit problems and ultimately to the very serious fire and explosion at Chevron’s San Francisco Bay area refinery.”
Gas companies have yet to adjust prices to the newest rates, in an attempt to protect their customers. As the fall season arrives, lower demand for gas will likely lead to lower prices, but until then, drivers will not see too much mercy at the pump.