Blair gasoline prices briefly top $3 mark before dropping back

Regular unleaded at $3.09 in some Cambria locations

Gasoline prices at some area stores briefly topped the $3 mark Tuesday before many in the Altoona area returned to the $2.99 level.

It was the first time since December 2014 that local gasoline prices topped $3.

The price for regular unleaded gasoline at some Sheetz stores jumped from $2.99 per gallon Monday to $3.09 per gallon early Tuesday, but by late Tuesday afternoon, most Altoona area Sheetz stores were back to the $2.99 price. The price remained at $3.09 in several Cambria County Sheetz locations, the company’s website said.

The price at local Rutter’s and Get Go locations was at $2.93 per gallon Tuesday morning. Rutter’s website showed the regular gasoline price at its Duncansville store at $2.89 mid-afternoon Tuesday.

The current local price already has exceeded projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

For the April-September summer driving season, EIA forecasted U.S. regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.74 per gallon, up from an average of $2.41 per gallon last summer. The higher forecast gasoline prices are primarily the result of higher forecast crude oil prices. For all of 2018, EIA expects U.S. regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.64 per gallon and gasoline retail prices for all grades to average $2.76 per gallon.

“Ultimately, crude prices have increased quicker and to a greater extent than we initially expected, which has pushed gasoline prices up as well,” said Sean Hill, an EIA economist. “That is basically the entire reason for the higher gasoline prices across the country. Gasoline supply levels are still well within their normal ranges; there are no major refinery or distribution outages. It’s really just a matter of crude oil prices having a lot of upward momentum over the last month to six weeks or so, when we expected crude oil prices to mostly level out.”

There is another reason for the increase in prices.

“Over the past couple months, there has been an increase in gas prices, most recently due to the switch to the summer gas blend and to the rising price of crude oil. We have not seen customers cut back as a result of this increase and remain committed to offering competitive gas prices at each of our 568 store locations,” Sheetz spokesman Nick Ruffner said.

Higher gasoline prices are not good for the convenience store industry.

“We never like it. We like lower prices. It takes money out of consumers’ pockets. High prices are not good for us. We pay credit card fees based on the price of fuel,” Scott Hartman, Rutter’s CEO, said.

Hartman said he doesn’t expect the prices to go much higher.

“I have heard no one saying it will go significantly higher. We could be near the seasonal peak already. Prices typically drop around mid-summer, but a variable can be how refineries and supply are affected if there are hurricanes,” Hartman said.

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