Washington gas prices are on the rise
Spring is traditionally the time of year for rising gas prices, but the rise was quick this year.
Unexpected refinery outages at refineries in San Francisco and Los Angeles have put a crimp in an already tight West Coast market, sending prices soaring in the past week, said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, an online website that tracks gas prices across the U.S. and Canada.
He expects the average price in Washington state to rise another 10 cents in the coming week. In California, there are places that are already pushing the $4-a-gallon level, he said in an interview.
“We don’t normally see this kind of rise, so buckle your seatbelt,” McTeague said.
The average price for a gallon of gas on April 8 was $3.43 in Whatcom County, according to AAA Washington. That’s 13 cents higher than a week ago and up 54 cents in the past month. In January, Whatcom County had some of the lowest gas prices in Western Washington — now it has the highest in the state.
British Columbia drivers have it even worse when it comes to rising prices. McTeague said some gas stations in Vancouver, B.C., are in the $1.65-a-liter range. When you account for the current exchange rate and the conversion to gallons, that’s about U.S. $4.68 a gallon.
British Columbia doesn’t have enough fuel to meet their needs with its current refining capacity, McTeague said, so it has to get fuel from other areas such as Washington state. Washington state refiners are also sending gas to California, meaning even less supply for this area.
Other factors, including rising demand, make this the time of year when gasoline prices traditionally rise up until Memorial Day weekend. McTeague expects that to happen in Western Washington, with possible decreases coming in summer if consumers get sticker shock and cut back on driving. Any other unexpected events, like another interruption of refinery operations, could send prices rising even higher.
“It doesn’t take much to get back to $4 a gallon,” McTeague said.
As for regional differences, the West Coast will continue to have the highest gas prices in the U.S. this summer, unless something unexpected like severe hurricane damage creates problems, he said.