This December motorists will not find significant holiday savings at the gas pump. Today’s national gas price average is $2.51, which is 38 cents more than this time last year. While AAA does expect gas prices to decline between now and the end of the year, motorists will still pay the highest November and December gas prices since 2014.
North Carolina’s state average is currently $2.37, which is 29 cents higher than this time last year. South Carolina’s state average is currently $2.24, which is 30 cents higher than this time last year.
“Although we are paying more at the pump than we have in recent years during this time, the good news is that we expect prices to decline through the end of 2017,” said AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety President Tiffany Wright. “High demand kept prices higher during the fall, but barring any unforeseen circumstances, prices should trickle down over the next several weeks.”
In 2017, gas prices have strayed from typical trends. Historically, year-end gas prices tend to be relatively cheap due to a drop-off in fall gasoline demand around Labor Day and the move to cheaper to produce winter-blend gasoline in mid-September. This year, the typical factors that drive gas prices down in winter were outweighed by the impact of two major hurricanes, steady consumer demand and continued growth in gasoline exports.
2017’s Tumultuous Trends
Highs and Lows: Summer driving season traditionally brings the highest gas prices of the year and year-end brings the lowest, but not this year:
2017 NC High: $2.64 on September 10
2017 NC Low: $2.07 on July 4
2017 SC High: $2.56 on September 10
2017 SC Low: $1.89 on July 3
Exports: According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the first half of 2017 U.S. exports of total motor gasoline averaged a record high of 756,000 b/d, a three percent increase from the first half of 2016. The second half of 2017 has seen this trend continue to climb, with exports peaking to one of their highest points in 2017 – 906,000 b/d – last month.
Production: According to Baker Hughes, Inc., the total oil rig count is currently 747, which is 273 more rigs than last year’s count at this time.
Regional Impact: The direct impacts to gasoline production and delivery from the hurricane season were felt hardest in the South and Southeast regions, which include North and South Carolina. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. refining capacity shut down during some points of late summer and early fall. Refining capacity has been slowly recovering in the region, increasing production by more than 100,000 barrels per day in the weeks following the storms.