MARIETTA - National gasoline price averages are higher than they have been in six months, and as Ohio faces a long-awaited spring, officials said to expect further hikes as the weather gets warmer.
Ohioans are paying an average of $3.54 a gallon at the pumps, slightly higher than the $3.49 average occurring nationwide, but Wednesday afternoon, gas jumped up to $3.75 a gallon in Marietta.
Several regional and national factors are to blame for higher prices Americans are paying at the pump, but experts say to have patience with necessary seasonal refinery maintenance that drives up prices during spring.
Photo by Jackie Runion
Marietta resident Charlie O’Dell, 35, fills up the tank of his tow truck at the Speedway on Seventh Street in Marietta on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after gasoline prices jumped from around $3.50 to $3.75 a gallon.
"The maintenance, a lot of people don't understand it and they're sick of hearing about it," said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. "But these refineries are decades old, and even though they're maintained, they still need time to rest, because they are pumping out oil 24/7, and eventually they have to stop."
The seasonal maintenance occurs in the spring before the summer heat kicks in, and during that time, fuel production is cut down, driving prices up.
"Throw in the destabilization in Ukraine and the rioting going on in Venezuela, and that can cause slight increases as well," DeHaan said, while nothing that those factors make a small difference because Ukraine is not a major source of oil.
* National: $3.49.
* Ohio: $3.54 per gallon (last month: $3.38)
* Washington County: $3.51 a gallon - jumped Wednesday afternoon to $3.75
* Expected peak in cost for spring: Mid-April to early May
* Current lowest average gasoline price: South Carolina - $3.19
* Current highest average gasoline price: Hawaii - $4.15
On the bright side, prices this March are lower than they were last year, when national averages were at $3.70.
"It was such an active winter with the cold weather, and that could have delayed the refinery maintenance and it could have pushed the prices up," said Bevi Powell, vice president of community relations at AAA East Central based in Pittsburgh.
Besides the maintenance, the summer months naturally drive up prices.
"Gas prices are higher in the summer because the heat puts more dangerous emissions into the air, and the EPA requires a higher quality of cleaner fuel to be used as a result," DeHaan said. "Just like anything else in life, higher quality means higher costs."
DeHaan said to expect gas prices to peak around mid-April to early May, where people can hope to see a bit of a decrease afterward.
"Last year in June, gas prices reached $3.95 a gallon on June 2 and fell to $3.25 by the end of the month," he said. "But this year, since the hike will be not be as big, we won't see that dramatic of a drop, either."
Powell also said to expect some increases throughout March and April that would normally have come earlier because the harsh winter delayed oil production.
"Give it some time. Soon the switchover will be done and the maintenance will be done, and that will help," Powell said.
Wednesday, GasBuddy.com put Washington County on an alert for a nearing gas hike, and shortly after, stations across the area began increasing fuel prices. Before the jump, gas in Marietta was at about $3.51 per gallon.
"It's pretty insufficient that Americans are paying so much of out pocket for gas," said Charlie O'Dell, 35, of Marietta. "If we could tap into more local sources of oil, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
O'Dell, who works for Gary's Towing & Auto Repairs in Marietta, filled up his tow truck for $129 Wednesday afternoon with the $3.75 per gallon price.
"There's so many other factors that the government doesn't think about when it comes to fuel; jobs we could be creating and the unemployment rates being so high," O'Dell said. "There's just no sense involved in the cost."
Brandon Sparks, 25, of Marietta also experienced the hike Wednesday.
"I just don't understand how it can change this often," he said. "I watch the price of crude oil, and it definitely does not jump around all the time like this."
Despite the frustration, Sparks said he does not go to any extra effort to try and avoid filling up on days like Wednesday.
"When you need gas you need gas, there's just not a lot you can do about it," he said.
Powell said changes like this are often a result of demand or traffic patterns when it comes to county by county differences, in addition to taxes, cost to operate a station, and proximity to oil sources.