A rise in the price of crude oil has pushed up the price of gasoline at pumps across the United States for the first time in two months.
The increase follows a summer-long streak during which the national retail average price of gasoline dropped on 54 of 55 days. But prices at the pump have now increased steadily during the past three weeks, according to AAA.
The national average price for regular unleaded is $2.16 per gallon, which is four cents more than one week ago, but is two cents less than a month ago and 46 cents less than the same date last year, and the lowest price for this date since 2004, AAA said.
AAA said pump prices have been driven up by crude oil prices surging more than 20% this month and refinery issues impacting production in some regions.
Higher crude oil prices have come as the U.S. dollar has weakened and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC considers production cuts, AAA noted.
As the U.S. dollar weakens, crude oil becomes relatively less expensive for those holding foreign currencies, which can increase demand, putting upward pressure on oil prices. However, any decision by the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates is likely to increase the value of dollar, compared to euro, Japanese yen or Chinese yuan.
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The upward momentum in the price of oil has been further supported by reports that OPEC members will again consider an agreement that would limit production in the face of the global glut of crude oil supplies that has more than halved prices in recent years.
Also influencing gasoline prices have been refinery issues that have exacerbated price increases areas such as in the Gulf Coast that are undergoing unplanned maintenance as a result of flooding in Louisiana and refinery fire in Texas.
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Drivers in the Midwest and Central U.S. continue to see the most dramatic recent price movement as the impact of outages – including the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana – has pushed prices higher. The facility is reported to be slowly coming back online, which could allow regional prices to drop back down, according to AAA
AAA’s weekly survey found pump prices have moved up in 42 states during the past week, reflecting the broad nature of the price increases. But domestic gasoline supplies remain high, indicating that pump prices are likely to remain cheap through the rest of the summer and into the fall.
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If demand drops after Labor Day as expected, prices may also dip back below $2 per gallon once the summer driving season is complete and as many regions are allowed to transition to selling cheaper-to-produce winter-blend gasoline, AAA reported.