On The Upswing

Early Seasonal Switch, Middle East Tension Causing Gas Prices To Rise Quickly

Posted: February 20, 2013

Jacqui Schrote, a junior at James Madison University, fills up her car at the Liberty gas station on South Main Street in Harrisonburg on Tuesday. Gas prices in the Harrisonburg area have increased an average of 22 cents in the last week. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)

HARRISONBURG — After a holiday season respite from high gas prices, drivers are paying more again to fill up their tanks.


Gas prices in the Harrisonburg area have skyrocketed an average of 22 cents in just the last week and are up 50 cents or more from mid-December, when some stations were charging just under $3 for a gallon of regular fuel, according to AAA’s Fuel Price Finder.


AAA Mid-Atlantic reports that gas prices have gone up 35 cents in the last month in Virginia, with the statewide average at $3.61 per gallon, as of Monday. Prices shot up 11 cents just over the weekend.


AAA described the high prices as a “function of the age-old tension between supply and demand, and strangely enough, both are down now,” according to a statement from the organization.


Crude prices have “skyrocketed,” resulting in higher pump prices, according to AAA, and supplies are down in part because the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, decided to reduce production.


The nationwide average was $3.73 per gallon on Monday, compared to $3.30 a month ago. Last year, it was $3.56 per gallon. In some parts of the country, gas prices have risen to well over $4 per gallon and in Southern California, the price for regular unleaded was over $5 per gallon in some places.


The Harrisonburg area’s average is about $3.62 per gallon, compared to $3.40 last week and $3.17 a month ago.


Last year, the average was approximately $3.59.


Bill Wood, an economics professor at James Madison University, said prices typically rise at the end of winter as refineries adjust their fuel blends to meet air quality requirements.


“It’s no surprise that gas prices rise in the new year,” he said. “The surprise is that it happened so soon.”


The seasonal blend conversion coupled with ongoing tension in the Middle East, such as the Iranian-Israeli conflict, appear to be driving up costs, Wood said.


Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com

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