Almost as if on cue, gas prices rose this past week as millions of American motorists prepared to hit the road for the Memorial Day weekend.
The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said Thursday the national average for regular gasoline was $2.37, up 3 cents from a week ago. Prices rose by higher amounts in California and in several states in the middle of the country. It was the first time midweek prices have been higher in five weeks.
A year ago, the national average for regular was $2.30, or 7 cents lower, so filling up with 15 gallons this Memorial Day weekend will cost about $1 more. Premium gas, though, is 13 cents higher this year at $2.89, and diesel fuel is 21 cents higher at $2.51.
Meanwhile, elsewhere around the U.S. this week:
The biggest price increases the past week were in Michigan and Ohio, where statewide averages rose 8 cents, and in California and Kentucky, which saw 9-cent increases.
California leapfrogged Hawaii, where regular averaged $3.06, to become the most expensive state for gas at $3.10 for regular. Alaska was third at $2.91, followed by Washington at $2.88.
South Carolina had the lowest average for regular, $2.05, followed by Alabama and Mississippi at $2.10 and Tennessee at $2.11.
Cynics might say that oil companies and gas stations raised their prices just in time for the holiday weekend, but prices typically rise this time of year because of growing demand and because many states require low-emissions summer gasoline blends that are more expensive to produce.
More price increases might be on the way, too. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday extended a production cut through March 2018 in a bid to bolster global prices. When OPEC agreed to cut production in late November 2016, it was supposed to be for six months.
Industry analysts are skeptical that the cuts will have much impact on oil prices — and pump prices — in the long term, though. U.S. oil production from shale rock has soared since January, offsetting OPEC's cuts and keeping a lid on oil prices. U.S. oil was trading at nearly $51 early Thursday, up more than $2 from a week ago but more than $2.50 less than it was six weeks ago.