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Spring season means rising gas prices. How high will Bellingham go?

Why are gas prices rising so fast this spring?

Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, explains why the national average price of gasoline is now its priciest since July 2015. GasBuddy is a smartphone app that uses crowd-sourced information to track gas prices.
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Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, explains why the national average price of gasoline is now its priciest since July 2015. GasBuddy is a smartphone app that uses crowd-sourced information to track gas prices.

U.S. gas prices are at the highest level in nearly three years and are expected to climb further in the coming weeks, with Bellingham following the national trend.

The average price for a gallon of gas is $2.68 in the U.S., the highest since July 2015, according to a report from GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices and trends.

The average price is much higher in Bellingham. The average price locally is $3.35 a gallon, up 40 cents compared to a year ago, according to AAA Washington.

Bellingham's average price could rise another 10 to 30 cents a gallon in the coming weeks as traditional spring factors kick in, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. Those factors include refineries switching over to the summer blend, less supply as nearby refineries do turnaround work and increased consumer demand as the weather improves.

Typically, the peak gas prices hit in May or early June before starting to go down, DeHaan said.

While Bellingham's gas prices are higher than the U.S. average, it's still a relative bargain compared to Vancouver B.C., where the average price is around $4.60 a gallon in U.S. dollars. DeHaan said he expects that price gap to continue for the coming weeks before beginning to narrow.

That gap could mean Canadians will continue stop here to fill up on gas. Through February, southbound border crossings into Whatcom County are up 10.8 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Other factors behind the higher spring gas prices include the rising price of crude oil, which is up to around $67 a barrel.

"Ultimately OPEC bears much of the responsibility for cutting oil production in 2017, leaving U.S. oil inventories at far lower levels than a year ago. However, higher oil prices have also enticed U.S. producers to ramp up crude oil exports," DeHaan said.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz
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