OGDEN — The pocketbook pain Utah motorists are experiencing may be a result of steadily increasing gas prices.
But Utah still has the third lowest gas prices on average in the country, with only Wyoming and Montana having lower pump prices, according to a national website.
“It is unusual that we are seeing these prices creep up. We know historically we have low prices this time of year,” Utah AAA spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough said.
Utah gas prices, as of Friday, have risen more than 15 cents per gallon in a week, putting the state average at $3.11 for a regular gallon of gas, according to the Fuel Gauge Report website.
That puts current gas prices about 3 cents higher on average than they were at this time a year ago, according to the report.
“We are seeing gas prices go up all over the country," Fairclough said.
The average price for a regular gallon of gas nationally has gone from $3.33 to $3.46 in one week, according to the report.
In some areas, Fairclough said, the jump in the pump price has been higher.
Based on her analysis, Fairclough said the increase is a result of a combination of rising crude oil prices and refineries temporarily shutting down production for a variety of reasons.
“It can be scheduled maintenance (for the refinery) or because something (technically) has gone amiss,” she said.
There was a point where gas prices were lower due to a reserve of lower-priced oil in the domestic distribution pipeline, Fairclough said. But now crude oil is being priced at the competitive international point, she said.
Utah Petroleum Association President Lee Peacock said the increase in the price at the pump has a lot to do with the substantial rise in the price of a barrel of crude oil, which has gone from $80 to $95 a barrel over the past six weeks.
“Oil is a worldwide commodity and those prices are set in the international marketplace, far away from Utah,” Peacock said.
“I don’t know why (gas prices) have turned around. Our prices are not doing that,” said Mike Astin, public information officer for Holly Refinery and Marketing Company of Woods Cross.
Despite driving a fuel-efficient vehicle, Astin said, he personally has noticed the recent swing in gas prices.
But Utah continues to be on the low end when it comes to gas prices.
The only states with lower regular gas prices on average are Montana ($3.014 per gallon) and Wyoming ($2.918).
The state with the highest average cost per regular gallon of gas is Hawaii, at $4.12, with California and New York tying for second with a $3.82 average cost.
There are so many factors involved when it comes to setting gas prices, Peacock and Fairclough were both unwilling to speculate as to what the future might hold.
It generally isn’t until spring that Utah sees an increase in gas prices, Peacock said.
“As demand increases, so does the price, that is basic economics,” he said.
Historically, Utah’s gas prices peak sometime in either May or September, she said.