Spring demand, refinery maintenance and summer-blend fuel will bring higher prices

BOISE – (March 21, 2019) – In an unusual trend that has now lasted more than a month, Idaho gas prices remain well below the national average.  Today, the Gem State is ranked 35th in the country for most expensive fuel – a big improvement over its usual position in the 7th to 9th place range.

Idaho’s reversal of fortune began on February 18, when the state average dropped to $2.29 per gallon and the U.S. average inched higher to $2.32.  Since then, the national average has soared by 28 cents, but Idaho’s average price has only increased by 15 cents.

“Idahoans enjoyed some serious savings last fall and winter – gas prices constantly fell from Halloween through February 25 of this year,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Even though we expect prices to keep climbing in the coming weeks, we were dealt a winning hand to begin the year.”

In another surprising twist, Utah has the lowest gas prices in the country today at $2.33, even beating out Gulf Coast states that benefit from a much shorter supply chain.  The Rockies region has some of the cheapest fuel prices across the country [Utah – $2.33, Wyoming – $2.37, Colorado – $2.41, Montana – $2.43, Idaho – $2.44], while the West Coast and Great Lakes regions remain high.  As long as that’s the case, it will bode well for Idaho.

Today, the U.S. average price is $2.60, which is 22 cents higher than a month ago and two cents higher than a year ago.  In Idaho, the average pump price is $2.44, which is 14 cents higher than a month ago, but 23 cents less than a year ago.

Spring marks the return of higher gas prices, both nationwide and in the Gem State.  Contributing factors include seasonal refinery maintenance and more-expensive summer-blend fuel on the supply side, and increased travel activity on the demand side.  All of these factors will apply upward pressure on gas prices in the coming weeks.

Today, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for crude oil is trading near $60, up $15 since the beginning of the year.  Oil embargoes in Iran and Venezuela, along with OPEC’s ongoing production cut of 1.2 million barrels per day for the first six months of the year could be partially responsible for the price hike.  Meanwhile, U.S. oil production is near an all-time high at 12 million barrels per day.  As domestic production increases, it could help to offset the impact of OPEC’s cuts.  Currently, there are 833 U.S. oil rigs in operation – 33 more than last year.

In the short run, growing crude oil inventories may slow rising fuel prices.  The Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. inventories dropped to 449 million barrels last week, but they are still nearly 20 million barrels higher than this time last year.  The Rockies region also added crude oil, albeit on a much smaller scale.  If inventories hold steady or even increase, gas prices could stabilize temporarily.

Here’s a look at gas prices around the state: Albion, $2.51; American Falls, $2.30; Athol, $2.64; Bellevue, $2.50; Blackfoot, $2.38; Boise, $2.46; Bonners Ferry, $2.56; Carey, $2.46; Cascade, $2.61; Challis, $2.53; Chubbuck, $2.35; Coeur d’Alene,  $2.42; Council, $2.61; Declo, $2.72; Donnelly, $2.50; Driggs, $2.51; Emmett, $2.44; Filer, $2.30; Franklin, $2.26; Fruitland, $2.45; Glenns Ferry, $2.39; Hagerman, $2.50; Hailey, $2.51; Homedale, $2.47; Idaho Falls, $2.33; Island Park, $2.72; Juliaetta, $2.54; Kamiah, $2.52; Ketchum, $2.80; Kimberly, $2.44; Kooskia, $2.46; Lava Hot Springs, $2.34; Lewiston, $2.55; Mackay, $2.51; McCall, $2.56; Middleton, $2.49; Montpelier, $2.49; Mud Lake, $2.50; Moscow, $2.65; New Meadows, $2.60; Notus, $2.50;  Oakley, $2.65; Orofino, $2.56; Payette, $2.45; Pocatello, $2.35; Post Falls, $2.48; Potlatch, $2.70; Preston, $2.27; Rathdrum, $2.42; Rexburg, $2.37; Riggins, $2.59; Soda Springs, $2.37; Stanley, $2.90; Sugar City, $2.37, Tetonia, $2.49; Twin Falls, $2.38; Victor, $2.58; Wallace, $2.57; Weiser, $2.43; Wilder, $2.47.