AAA says gasoline may hit $3.75 a gallon this spring

Consumers on all levels are enjoying cheaper prices than the same date in 2013

ALBANY — There may be some sticker shock at the gas pump in the near future if predictions by an organization known for keeping a close eye on fuel cost trends bear out.

AAA, The Auto Club Group, is predicting that the cost of a gallon of regular-grade gas could reach $3.75 in the spring.

“The bad news is gas prices could spike upwards of 50 cents this spring as refinery maintenance, increased demand, and a more expensive fuel blend push pump prices higher,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokesperson. “The good news is 2014 gas prices are forecast to be less than last year.

“A gallon of gas may reach $3.75 in some areas this year, but it’s not expected to spike beyond $4 a gallon.”

Last year, the average price peaked at $3.79 a gallon on Feb. 27, rising 49 cents over a 41-day period, Brady said. The price increased 56 cents per gallon in spring 2012 and a whopping 86 cents per gallon in spring 2011.

The highest annual average was 2012, when a gallon averaged $3.60, following by 2011’s $3.51 per gallon. Last year, the average for the year was $3.49, and AAA officials expect the number to be around $3.44 this year. AAA officials said many refineries have increased capacity to take advantage of the recent boom in North American crude oil production, which could limit peak prices and volatility.

But another contributing factor in 2013 was a relatively quiet hurricane season — the first since 1994 with no major hurricanes despite forecasters expecting higher-than-normal activity. Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was not adversely impacted by tropical storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast for this hurricane season, which starts June 1 and runs through the end of November, hasn’t been released.

For now, however, average pump prices on the national, state and local levels are all far below the prices motorists were paying on the same date in 2013. The national average Monday morning was $3.294, up 1.5 cent from last week by 2.1 cents cheaper than last month. Compared to Feb. 10, 2013, motorists across the nation were paying an average of 28.8 cents less a gallon Monday.

Georgia, with an average of $3.174, was nearly 30 cents a gallon cheaper than the same date in 2013, where motorists statewide were looking at $3.472 per gallon. Monday’s average was a drop of 1.6 cent from last week and 3.9 cents from last month.

Drivers in the metro Albany area opened with the week with the lowest average pump price of the state’s eight metro areas at $3.101. That was up 0.8 cent from last week, but was a 13.5-cent improvement over last month and 35.2 cents cheaper than the same date last year.

The rest of Georgia’s metro areas followed Monday, in order, with averages of $3.115, Augusta; $3.119, Macon; $3.159, Columbus; $3.162, Valdosta; $3.179, Athens; $3.185, Atlanta, and $3.233, Savannah.