Average gas prices in Montezuma County have risen 13 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.55 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline Wednesday. This compares to the national average that has increased 15 cents per gallon in the past week to $3.50 per gallon, according to the gasoline price website www.ColoradoGasPrices.com.
Including the changes in gas prices in Montezuma County during the past week, prices Wednesday were 94 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 60 cents higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 39 cents per gallon during the past month and stands 76 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.
Jason Toews is co-founder of GasBuddy.com, which owns ColoradoGasPrices.com and follows prices at more than 125,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada. Toews said unrest in the Middle East is a big part of rising gas prices but doesnt tell the whole picture. Nicer weather equals more driving and more gas usage this time of year.
Generally speaking, even in Cortez, people dont like to drive as much in snowy conditions and cooler weather, and people just generally dont like to be outside in the winter quite as much, Toews said. Once the summer driving season starts, people are on the road a lot more especially once the kids get out of school and families take their summer vacations.
Drivers should not expect any drop in gas prices through the summer. Instead, they should prepare for more increases. Toews estimates the per gallon cost for gas will toy with the $4 mark.
Colorado typically has a little bit cheaper prices than the rest of the country, but nonetheless, especially in the Cortez area, were going to see kind of flirting with $4 per gallon, he said. Looks like probably well hit about $3.90 (per gallon) this summer.
If gas prices creep to $4 a gallon, it wont be the first time. According to information from GasBuddy, on June 14, 2008, Cortez/Montezuma County broke the $4 mark at the gas pumps.
Toews said the one wild card that could have a profound effect on the pumps is the uncertainty in the Middle East, particularly events in Saudi Arabia, The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, is the leading oil exporter responsible for 10 to 15 percent of the global supply of crude oil. With protests planned in Saudi Arabia for Friday, March 11, and beyond, its going to be an important marker to see if Saudi forces can contain any unrest that could develop in the country, according to Toews.
OPEC has already ramped up production to make up for the loss of Libyan crude. Also, the Obama administration is evaluating whether to tap U.S. strategic oil reserves to slow the rising price of oil. According to an Associated Press report, that decision will be based on a variety of factors, including the flow of oil to the U.S.
If we tap into the reserves and start using some of that to reduce crude oil prices that would have an impact (on lowering gas prices), but the thing that concerns me is that is just a short-term fix, Toews said. If gas prices do continue to go up, it seems like that could be a potential problem. If we dont have any strategic reserves or if we use them all up too soon then were in big trouble.
If we start using them now and then things explode in Saudi Arabia that could mean big problems later on, he said, adding that if production were to shut down in Saudi Arabia the U.S. could see gas prices rise to $6 to $7 per gallon.
For now, gasoline consumers can only watch and wait to see where crude oil prices will go and what they will end up paying at the pump. If there are no other upsets in oil production, drivers can see relief in about six months.
Assuming that theres not going to be major problems or further major problems in the Middle East, we will see some relief by September, after Labor Day, Toews said. Once summer driving season is over, then we should see some relief.
Reach Paula Bostrom at email@example.com.