Motorists should brace themselves for even higher gas prices in the days ahead, enhanced by the extreme cold weather hitting much of the country, according to a release from the travel website GasBuddy.
The national average price of gasoline may jump 10-20 cents per gallon from its current price of $2.54 per gallon over the next two weeks as millions of barrels of refining capacity has gone offline due to the extreme cold in the South, the release said.
Such an increase in prices could lead the national average to rise to $2.65-$2.75 per gallon, resulting in the highest prices since 2019 and the highest seasonal prices in over five years.
According to GasBuddy’s analysis, 11 refineries in Texas and one in Kansas have at least partially shut due to the extremely cold weather. Refineries are exposed to the elements, and unlike facilities in the northern U.S. which are prepared for cold weather, few refineries in the south have protection from these historically low temperatures.
GasBuddy calculations show 3.48 million barrels of refining capacity were offline as of midday Tuesday, or nearly 20% of total U.S. refining capacity, just under the amount shut down due to Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“Expect gas prices to rise more closer to the markets these refineries serve, primarily Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and potentially even up the coast, as the Colonial pipeline carries refined products from the affected refineries as far as New Jersey. While other regions are also likely to see impacts to gas prices, the amount may be slightly less,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in the release. “Even after this event is over, it may take refineries days or even a week or two to fully return to service, and with gasoline demand likely to accelerate as we approach March and April, the price increases may not quickly fade.”
GasBuddy expects the national average could rise closer to $3 per gallon closer to Memorial Day weekend as refineries eventually begin to switch over to EPA-mandated cleaner summer fuels.