The national average for a gallon of regular shot up 14¢ last week. Normally, a sharp increase like that is associated with strife in the Middle East or a natural disaster causing a major slowdown in production. Instead, the price hike at the pump came as a result of problems at refineries in the Midwest—the region that’s largely responsible for the increase in average gas prices nationally.
This week’s gas update from the Energy Information Administration shows that gas prices rose 14¢ nationally from July 30 to August 6. The rise is double the rate of increase that had drivers worried in March, when gas prices were rising 1¢ per day, on average. Last week’s increase also comes on the heels of a rise in gas prices of 17¢ nationally in July, the largest increase in the month in more than a dozen years.
For Midwest drivers, the latest dramatic rise in gas prices probably sounds all too familiar. In late March, prices at the pump soared in the Midwest, far outpacing the rise nationally; in Chicago, the price of a gallon rose 18¢ in a single week. More recently, refinery outages and oil pipeline ruptures in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest have caused gas prices to spike in the region. In Wisconsin’s state capital of Madison, for instance, one gas station owner said how he was forced to jack up prices 14¢ last Tuesday, then 9¢ more on Wednesday, and another 10¢ the following day.
For the Midwest region as a whole, gas prices rose 26¢ for the week ending August 6, recently averaging $3.77 per gallon. That’s higher than the average in the region that usually leads the nation in gas prices, the West Coast (currently $3.76), though it’s lower than the California average ($3.87).
Drivers in certain parts of the Midwest may have been wishing they lived in California lately, and not only for the sunshine. The average gallon of gas was recently selling for $3.91 in Ohio, and $4.23 in Chicago.
Relief seems to be in sight, however. On Monday, Reuters reported that gas prices tumbled 25¢ in Chicago, thanks to the restart of a shuttered pipeline. According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, as of Tuesday the average of a gallon of regular in Ohio was down to $3.84. In Michigan, prices are expected to hit $3.80 by the end of the week, after averaging $3.99 on Monday — and $3.60 the week before.
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At the same time, it’s worth noting that the national average was $3.63, just 4¢ less than the price at this time last year. Last year, by the way, was the priciest year overall for gasoline, with a yearlong average of $3.53.