Cars travel Monday in front of the Homerun Foods gas station on West Oglethorpe Boulevard. Thanksgiving week opened with higher fuel prices, fueled by a supply disruption in the Gulf that impacted the Southeast, particularly Florida. (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)
ALBANY — Ouch! The pinch at the pump has returned just in time for Thanksgiving holiday travel, the most heavily traveled holiday period of the year.
In metro Albany, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report on Monday showed a 2.3-cent increase from Nov. 18 for a gallon of regular-grade gas, about a half-cent a gallon below what Albany motorists were paying last month. Year-to-year, the average price of a gallon of gas Monday was 8.2 cents lower.
Compared to the opening of Thanksgiving week last year, however, the price this year is up a bit from the metro Albany average of $3.227 on Nov. 18, 2012.
Statewide and nationally, motorists are seeing larger increases than Albany residents. On Monday, the average price of gas nationally was $3.280, according to the Fuel Gauge Report, and increase of 7.2 cents from last week, though 14.6 cents cheaper than the same date in 2012.
In Georgia, motorists have seen the average increase from $3.196 last week to $3.267, a penny and a half cheaper than the same date in 2012.
“The holiday budget for many Americans just got tighter,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman, The Auto Club Group. “At first, it looked like millions of motorists would enjoy some of the lowest gas prices of the year during their Thanksgiving road trips. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case.
“The good news is the spike in pump prices should be temporary. Once Gulf Coast refineries return to full production, drivers should see gas prices move back on a downward path.”
Brady said that refineries in Louisiana and Texas that supply the Gulf Coast were experiencing production problems that cut capacity, a situation that has directly affected the Southeast. The most heavily impacted state was Florida, which saw a 20-cent per gallon jump that propelled it into the group of states with the nation’s highest gas prices.
Nationally, Brady said, supplies were continuing to increase and the price for a barrel of crude was still below $95. AAA said U.S inventories recently rose by 375,000 barrels for a total of 389 million, based in information from the Energy Information Administration.
In Albany Monday, gas was still at $3.189 at some stations, including the Murphy Express and Pilot stations on Cordele Road and Clark Avenue in East Albany. From there, prices ranged from $3.199 to $3.399.
Among Georgia’s eight metro areas Monday, Albany ranked No. 4 behind Augusta, $3.199; Macon, $3.228, and Columbus, $3.244. The highest average in the state was in Savannah, $3.382, followed in decreasing order by Valdosta, $3.313; Athens, $3.291, and Atlanta, $3.264.
It’s unknown whether the price increases — which may not be finished this week — will impact Thanksgiving travel. Last week, AAA released its projections on Thanksgiving holiday travel, predicting a 1.5 percent decline from 2012 with 43.4 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period. In 2012, 44 million traveled.
Of those traveling, AAA expects 38.9 million, or 90 percent, to drive, a drop of 1.6 percent from 2012’s volume of motorists. Another 3.14 million travelers are expected to fly, which would be a 3.7 percent decline from those who flew last year. Another 1.39 million will opt for some other form of travel, an increase of 9.5 percent from last year.
The busiest travel day of the period will be Wednesday, with 37 percent of all U.S. travelers on the move that day, AAA projects.
Closer to home, 1.24 million Georgians, a drop of 0.6 percent from last year, are expected to travel over Thanksgiving, with the lion’s share driving — 1.12 million, a decline of 0.8 percent from 2012. Air travel at 85,172 will decline 3 percent, AAA says, while the category “other,” at 29,304, will see a sizable increase of 18.5 percent from last year.
According to AAA’s survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to be 601 miles, which is an increase of 2.2 percent from last year when travelers planned to log 588 miles.