U.S. motorists are expected to spend $50 billion more to fill their tanks this year as rising oil prices put an end to $2 a gallon gasoline.
Gasoline costs are expected to surge nearly 20 percent this year – they’re already up by 20 cents a gallon in the past month – following the Nov. 30 decision by OPEC to cut crude oil production, according to a forecast released Wednesday by GasBuddy, which tracks fuel pricing. Many economists compare rising gasoline prices to tax increases, which take money from Americans who otherwise might spend it in stores, restaurants and other consumer businesses.
Gas prices have steadily risen locally. According to AAA Washington, the average price for a gallon of gas was $2.70 in Bellingham on Wednesday, up 21 cents compared with a month ago.
Crude oil settled at $52.33 a barrel, double the February low of about $26 a barrel. Prices have risen more than 15 percent since OPEC agreed at the end of November to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day.
Gasoline prices hit an average of $2.35 a gallon nationwide on Tuesday for regular unleaded. Nationally, gasoline is expected to average nearly $2.50 a gallon in 2017, up from $2.13 last year.
Gasoline accounts for about 4 percent of U.S. household spending, according to the Labor Department.
The Bellingham Herald business reporter Dave Gallagher contributed to this report.