Gas prices jump way up, but why?

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 5:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska has experienced a big jump in gas prices, but the state is not alone. Fuel prices in other West Coast states have also soared recently.

According to AAA, gas prices nationally averaged $3.80 for a gallon of unleaded on Tuesday, Oct. 4. California’s average was $6.41 on that same day, Oregon was $5.45, and Alaska’s was $5.41 — although in Anchorage, prices were even higher.

All of this comes after record-high gas prices this summer. Oil and gas analyst Larry Persily said the jump could seem mysterious, especially since crude oil prices have dropped significantly since June — which did eventually bring prices down.

“Motorists were seeing in August, September, prices come down,” Persily said. “And then it was a bit of a shock, even I looked at it and said ‘what the heck, how come they went back up?’”

Persily said it has to do with refineries on the West Coast temporarily shutting down and limiting supply. Alaska may produce oil, but very little of it is refined here. Oil is shipped to the West Coast to be turned into gasoline, then sent back to the state.

Persily said many West Coast refineries are taking a break to do maintenance.

“Refineries will schedule their maintenance to plan for winter blends,” Persily said. “But then there was some unplanned maintenance that shut down some refineries in California. A big Phillips 66 refinery in Puget Sound closed for scheduled maintenance just last week and that took about 2 and a half million gallons a day of gasoline off the market.”

Persily said the entire West Coast is seeing increased prices as a result of the shutdowns, but prices should ease as refineries come back online, possibly by the end of the week. In the meantime, he has some advice for drivers.

“If you don’t have to fill up your tank, wait. It will come back down,” Persily said. “But it’s going to come back down dimes, not dollars.”