By RICK HAYES
Gas prices have spiked again in Southern Illinois, despite analyst projections that motorists will not see any significant changes from year ago averages.
On Tuesday, prices ranged from $3.57 to $3.59 for regular fuel in Mt. Vernon, compared to about $3.45 a week ago. The average in the Metro East area was $3.62 on Tuesday, compared to $3.38 a week ago. The statewide average price on Tuesday was $3.70, compared to $3.46 a week ago.
Nationwide, the average price on Tuesday was at $3.50 per gallon, compared to $3.36 a week ago.
Mike Right, a public relations spokesman for Triple-A Motor Club in St. Louis, said it’s anyone’s guess what may happen in the coming weeks, although the current prices are higher than year ago comparisons.
“Last year we started out with very high prices, and there was a lot of anxiety in the markets. We’re definitely paying more for gas today than we were a year ago,” Right said.
“The so-called talking heads are saying the main culprit this time around is an uptake in crude oil prices, which have driven up gas prices,” Right said. “There’s also some refinery issues out there. Crude only goes up and down for who knows why. When the stock market goes up, it drives up crude. It’s very volatile to say the least. It’s unusual to see these price spikes this time of the year without a just cause.”
Crude oil closed at $96.17 on Monday, was slightly lower on Tuesday, but eventually got over the $100 per barrel mark last year.
“I’m a little nervous about what’s going on and where we’re at,” Right said. “Hopefully, we’re on the downside. If we continue to watch those prices, it will give us a good idea of where we’re heading.”
Right said according to the U.S. Department of Energy, motorists should see another spike in the summer months, followed by a downward trend. The nationwide average in 2012 was $3.63 per gallon and the U.S. Information Administration is projecting an average price of $3.43 this year.
Despite similar crude oil prices during 2011 and 2012, U.S. monthly average gasoline retail prices increased from an average of $3.53 per gallon in 2011 to an average $3.63 per gallon in 2012, according to the EIA driven partly by isolated refinery outages and lower inventory levels on the East and west coasts. U.S. regular gasoline retail prices frill from an average of $3.85 per gallon in September 2012 to an average of $3.31 per gallon in December, which was the lowest average since December 2011. EIA expects regular grade gasoline retail prices will average $3.44 per gallon and $3.34 per gallon in 2013 and 2014, respectively.