February gas prices highest in three years

Staff Reports • Updated Mar 4, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Motorists paid the highest gas prices during February in three years. 

The monthly average for a gallon of regular unleaded was $2.28 nationally, $2.28 in Florida, $2.18 in Georgia and $2.06 in Tennessee. Compared to February 2016, the averages were an increase of 55 cents nationally, 51 cents in Florida and Georgia and 52 cents in Tennessee. The average cost for a full tank of gas was $34 – $8 more than February 2016. 

Although previous years saw significant price swings during February, pump prices remained relatively stable. In total, average prices declined 3 cents in Florida, and increased 1-cent nationwide and 4 cents in Georgia. There was no change in Tennessee’s state average. In years prior, February gas prices fell 5 cents in 2016, but rose 34 cents in 2015 and 17 cents in 2014. 

“February usually signals the start of a seasonal upswing in gas prices, but that did not happen this year,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA. “Oil prices held steady between $52 and $54, which kept a lid on gas prices. However, the final day of February delivered a slightly higher pump price, which could be a hint of things to come. 

“Gas prices usually follow an upward trend from February to Memorial Day. In the past five years, prices rose between 35-75 cents during that four-month period. This happens because refineries enter maintenance season, causing them to produce less gasoline at a time when demand is on the rise. If oil prices remain steady, pump prices would likely stay in the low end of the historical range.”

In March 2016, average prices rose a total of 30 cents nationally, 32 cents in Florida, 36 cents in Georgia and 36 cents in Tennessee. During this time, the price for a barrel of West Texas crude oil climbed $7, which would normally signal a shift of only 18 cents at the pump, but supply and demand fundamentals pushed prices even higher.

The 2016 price hike was the highest for March in more than a decade. Before that, intra-monthly prices did not rise more than 25 cents. The five-year average for price increases during March were 9 cents nationally, 11 cents in Florida, 7 cents in Georgia and 9 cents in Tennessee.

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