Gasoline prices rising in region

PARKERSBURG – Some local gas stations were inching toward the $4 mark for a gallon of gasoline as a tight supply and higher demand are driving up prices.

Speedway stations in Parkersburg and Belpre were reported having $3.99 a gallon for regular gasoline early Thursday afternoon.

“Gas prices in West Virginia have been creeping up to their highest level this year,” said AAA spokesman Michael Green.

Gasoline supplies have been tight and production has not kept pace with demand. Demand has remained extremely high in May as many people hit the roads following the cold winter.

“Demand has been high,” Green said. “After the brutal winter we had, people are getting out and traveling more.”

The most recent AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, which was last updated on May 25, had prices for regular unleaded gasoline in the Parkersburg/Marietta area at $3.899 a gallon, mid at $4.043 and premium at $4.192.

A month ago it was $3.779 for regular, $3.898 for mid and $4.011 for premium in Parkersburg, according to the report. A year ago, it was $3.663 for regular, $3.784 for mid and $3.911 for premium.

The highest recorded average price for the Parkersburg area was $4.286 a gallon on May 4, 2011.

As of May 25, Charleston had $3.787 a gallon for regular, Huntington/Ashland had $3.859, Steubenville/Weirton had $3.777 and Wheeling had $3.795, according to the Gauge Report.

Jan Vineyard, president of the OMEGA, the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association, said gasoline prices are rising everywhere.

“It not just in Parkersburg; it is happening throughout the country,” she said.

Refineries are switching to their summertime blends, which the government requires; this affects the available supply, Vineyard said. The Gulf Coast refineries are processing gasoline and sending it to other countries, which also impacts supply, she said.

Crude oil costs are up about $10 a barrel compared to this time last year.

“A general rule of thumb is that every dollar that crude goes up, gas goes up 2.5 to 3 cents at the pump,” Vineyard said.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.651.

Green said the average price of gasoline in West Virginia is $3.77 a gallon.

Gas prices can vary tremendously in every state, he said. In West Virginia, there can be variability in that some locations are more difficult to supply than others; supply trucks must travel long distances on mountain roads, he said.

As of Thursday morning, 69 percent of stations in West Virginia had gasoline higher than $3.75 a gallon, said Teresa Thomas, director of public affairs for AAA East Central Region.

“Overall, though, prices vary from station to station, which is why AAA generally focuses on the average price,” Thomas said. “Prices will remain high until supplies have a chance to rebuild throughout the region.”

Green said the demand in Ohio has been high, noting the Parkersburg area’s proximity to the Buckeye State.

There is no indication most drivers will end up paying more than $4, on average, for a gallon of gasoline.

“Some stations may go over that,” Green said. “However, on average, people should be able to find it for less.”