While the U.S. is the largest oil producer in the world, America produces slightly more than half of what it consumes on a daily basis.
“We produce about 12 million barrels a day, but we consume 20 to 21, so we are nowhere near this mythical energy independence that many believe we are on the cusp of,” said Patrick DeHaan with Gas Buddy.com. “We are still subject to the whims of a global commodity.”
The average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas in Georgia is now $2.73. Last year on May 1, it was $2.71. Prices in the Rome area are generally in the $2.64 to $2.69 range with some places slightly lower and a few even higher. The lowest price the website is reporting Wednesday was $2.54 a gallon.
DeHaan explained that prices tend to go up late each spring for a couple of reasons. Many refineries go offline for maintenance.
“That maintenance can last through early to mid-May,” DeHaan said. “Maintenance is one of those necessary evils.”
Many of the nation’s largest refineries are extremely old, though they may have been upgraded over the years.
“They make any upgrades before summer so that when motorists are filling their tank at a quick pace in summer they can meet that demand,” he said.
At the same time, refineries also start producing the summer blends required by the Environmental Protection Administration.
“There’s an economic impact when you combine those two and that’s really what squeezes prices so high so quickly,” DeHaan said. “There’s just not enough summer gasoline to go around when those transitions are being made.”
Once June rolls around, the petroleum analyst said it’s not unusual to see a slight dip in the prices.
Last year, the most expensive price in Georgia occurred on May 27 at $2.81, but by the Fourth of July they had dropped to $2.65.
Haroon Bajwa, owner of The Market on Second Avenue, said he frequently listens to customers gripe about the wide fluctuations in gas prices.
“They don’t blame us, but they complain about the pricing fluctuations,” Bajwa said. He said he’s watched the price jump from $2.24 to $2.74 over the course of the past six months.
“Sometimes we make 2 to 3 cents per gallon, maximum,” Bajwa said.
Another issue this year is the price per barrel for crude oil which has gone up about $21 a barrel since Christmas.
“The economy is growing at a robust clip and generally that pushes oil prices higher since we use more oil when the economy is growing more,” DeHaan said.
OPEC has also curtailed production somewhat to keep prices up. Political issues in Venezuela and Iran have also contributed to making the market much tighter.