Gas prices continue to climb

WARREN — Although consumers paid more locally for a gallon of regular gasoline Tuesday than in previous weeks, the cost to fuel up at area filling stations remained lower, on average, than what motorists were paying across the country.

Even so, gas prices are expected to continue trending up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, national motor club AAA reported.

In the Warren-Youngstown area Tuesday, a gallon of regular gas averaged $2.54, a jump of 28 cents over what it cost the same day last week. Area gas prices averaged $2.25 for a regular gallon a month ago. The average cost was $2.12 a gallon this time last year.

Statewide, average gas prices for a gallon of regular gas were $2.54 on Tuesday, $2.30 the prior week, $2.27 a month ago and $2.16 a year ago.

At $2.65, the national gas price average was 27 cents more expensive on the week, with motorists in 26 states paying 25 to 44 cents more for a gallon of unleaded compared to seven days ago, AAA leaders said. Every state in the country saw gas prices increase except for Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii and Utah, where prices remained stable.

Overall, gas prices were pennies away from topping the highest price — at $2.67 Aug. 15-18, 2015 — Americans had paid in more than two years.

Nationwide, gas prices averaged $2.38 last week, $2.35 a month ago and $2.20 this time last year.

Although Harvey is no longer raining down on the Gulf Coast, the storm’s impact continues to drive up gas prices across the country, analysts said.

Irma, listed as a Category 5 hurricane, was expected to hit the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean Tuesday night into today. A Hurricane Watch was in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. As of Tuesday, there was an increasing chance that the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys could see some impact this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center. However, Irma’s changing storm track could bring an altered forecast in the coming days, analysts said.

Another storm formed behind Irma, Tropical Storm Jose, over the Atlantic wasn’t expected to be a threat to the United States, the hurricane center reported.

“Our regional AAA teams are preparing for the impact Irma may have on our members. The safety of our response teams and members is our No. 1 priority,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “AAA will continue to monitor Irma’s path and the potential impact the hurricane could have on residents in the area, as well as the refineries, pipelines and supply distribution components.”

The Department of Energy reported that eight Gulf Coast refineries were in the process of restarting, which accounts for about 10 percent of Gulf Coast refining capabilities. At its peak, Harvey shuttered 27 percent of U.S. processing capacity. No refineries had returned to normal rates, but at least four were operating at reduced rates. Meanwhile, pipelines forced to take pre-cautionary shut downs caused by Harvey either have resumed operations or were in the process of coming back online.

Losses in U.S. supply capability have catapulted retail prices to their highest levels since August 2015. But prices remain lower than they were in the initial weeks of September 2011 through 2014, according to the Oil Price Information Service. On Tuesday, 74 percent of U.S. fuel stations were selling gas for $2.75 or less per gallon while 7 percent were selling above $3 per gallon, AAA reported.