Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Gasoline prices push higher as demand begins to return, AAA reports
Gas prices for drivers across Oklahoma and the nation climbed over the past week.
Nationally, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline Tuesday was $1.96, while in Oklahoma, drivers were paying an average of about $1.63 per gallon for fuel, AAA officials said.
About a week ago, the national average for a gallon of gas was $1.88, while Oklahoma drivers were paying about $1.55 a gallon.
Tuesday’s per-gallon averages, while up, still are dramatically lower than they were a year ago (87 cents lower nationally, and 92 cents in Oklahoma).
Indeed, drivers over the Memorial Day holiday enjoyed the lowest fuel costs seen over that period since 2003, officials said Tuesday.
Those officials attributed increasing gasoline prices over the past week to changes in crude oil values and to current stockpiles and increasing demands for refined petroleum products. Last week, crude oil trading contracts reached their highest price point of nearly $34 per barrel since the Trump administration declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency, prompting many states to implement stay-at-home restrictions.
Officials attributed crude’s climb in value to declines in domestic oil production and growing confidence that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia will honor pledged production cuts.
On Tuesday, crude oil trading contracts that will settle on June 22 closed at $34.04 a barrel.
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Also, demand for gasoline products has been climbing since the end of April, AAA officials said. But even so, they estimate it was 28% lower during the first three weeks of May than it was during the same time period in 2019.
“Americans have seen significantly cheaper-than-normal gas prices the past two months,” said Leslie Gamble, a spokesperson for AAA Oklahoma. “While motorists will see pump prices continue to increase, AAA does not expect the summer average to be as expensive as last year’s season.”
Gamble stated a caveat to that, however, is the hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean, which begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.
AAA officials said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that the 2020 season will be more active than normal and could create anywhere between 13 and 19 named storms.
Stronger storms could take refineries offline along the U.S. Gulf Coast, which could periodically limit ongoing fuel production and push prices higher.
An average Atlantic hurricane season typically produces 12 named storms, including three major hurricanes.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates 90.2 million barrels of gasoline products were available to be distributed to retailers before the Memorial Day holiday commenced.
While AAA officials predicted retailers would draw on those reserves as states begin to allow businesses to reopen, they expected stockpiles will remain robust enough to moderate future fuel price increases during June.
Gas prices across the nation increased by at least a dime or more per gallon the past week in Colorado (which saw the biggest increase of 16 cents per gallon), Utah, Kentucky, Idaho, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Delaware, AAA officials said.