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OK Gas Prices Still Rising

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla_ Oklahoma's average price for self-serve regular gasoline Wednesday stands at $3.62 per gallon, 65 cents more than the $2.97 recorded just five weeks ago on Jan. 16. State gasoline prices have not been this high since Oct. 10, 2012.

Wednesday's national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.77, which is the highest on record for this calendar day. This price is 15 cents more expensive than one week ago, 46 cents more than one month ago and 20 cents more than the average price one year ago.

The 46-cent month-over-month increase is the most dramatic since June 2009. The largest increase on record was August 5-September 4, 2005 when prices jumped 75 cents largely because of Hurricane Katrina. The national average has increased for 34 consecutive days, rising 46 cents or nearly 14 percent during this stretch.

First Half Gas Prices 2011-2013

One reason for these price increases is the trend of U.S. refineries performing seasonal maintenance and making the switch-over to summer blend gasoline production earlier in the year. This earlier schedule is the choice of refiners and has not come in response to any change to the deadline to complete the transition to summer-blend fuels, which are required in many parts of the country, including Oklahoma, and more expensive to produce. Regional supplies can decrease when refineries go offline and subsequently markets are more sensitive during the changeover period to refinery disruptions that would further squeeze supply, as we have seen this year.

The refinery-related price run-up in 2011 began in mid-February, when the national average increased for 27 consecutive days, starting an 86-cent surge to the peak of $3.98 on May 5. In 2012 the surge began at the end of January and increased 66 of 71 days to a peak of $3.94 on April 5 and 6. This year's run-up began on January 17.

While the peak price this spring may approach the 2011 and 2012 highs, AAA continues to expect the high to be lower than both years. The primary drivers of rising pump prices are these refinery concerns along with higher crude oil prices. Unlike recent years, when the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has approached $110 per barrel, the current early-year increase has been driven by positive economic news rather than geopolitical unrest overseas.

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