Why are gas prices rising so fast this spring?
If you're driving anywhere for Memorial Day weekend or any other time this summer, you'll want to budget a little more for fuel.
Gas prices have risen more than 12 cents a gallon in North Carolina in the last month and are now nearly 59 cents higher than they were a year ago, according to AAA. The average for a gallon of regular unleaded in North Carolina was $2.80 on Friday, according to AAA's gas price tracker.
Several factors have combined to causes prices to rise over the last year. For starters, oil-producing countries, including those that make up the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Counties, or OPEC, agreed to cut production to eliminate a worldwide glut that had been holding prices down. Economic and political turmoil in Venezuela has reduced production in one of the world's biggest exporting countries, and some analysts say the Trump administration's decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran will also reduce supply.
But the rising prices aren't expected to hurt demand at a time when the national economy is booming. AAA expects 41.5 million Americans will travel this holiday weekend, the most in a dozen years.
“The highest gas prices since 2014 won’t keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” Bill Sutherland, senior vice president for AAA Travel and Publishing, said in a statement. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”
AAA predicts the national average for a gallon of gas could reach $3 at some point this summer (it's now $2.97) but notes that the South and Southeast have the cheapest gas prices on average. The average price in North Carolina is higher than in all of its neighbors except Georgia, where it is 3 cents a gallon higher.
The average price in Raleigh is $2.82 a gallon, according to AAA, higher than in any part of the state except the New Bern area, where gas costs 4 cents more a gallon. Central North Carolina, from Winston-Salem to Morganton, enjoyed the cheapest average gas at about $2.75. In Charlotte, the average price was $2.77 a gallon.
Gas prices are higher now in North Carolina than they were last fall, when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast in late August and shut down refineries and pipelines that supply the state with most of its gasoline. Prices spiked more than 40 cents a gallon after the storm before subsiding.
Gas prices remain relatively low compared to the last decade. For several years, they topped $3 a gallon in the Triangle before dropping in late 2014. According to AAA, the most motorists ever paid in the Triangle on average, not adjusted for inflation, was $4.058 per gallon of regular unleaded on Sept. 16, 2008.