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Highest gasoline prices in three years projected for 2017

• Jan 9, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Motorists may get some sticker shock in 2017 and will shell out $52 billion more over the course of the year compared to 2016 as the national yearly average rises to $2.49 per gallon, according to GasBuddy’s 2017 Fuel Price Outlook.

Aside from gasoline prices that are forecast to be higher than 2016, highlights include:

• $355 billion will be spent on gasoline in the U.S. over the course of the year, $52 billion more than last year. That’s a considerable jump given that motorists saved $39 billion on gasoline in 2016 versus 2015.

• The seasonal switch from ‘winter-blend’ to ‘summer-blend’ as mandated by EPA and the Clean Air Act will bring a spike at the pump later this winter and spring, with the national average gas price rising between 35-60 cents between mid-February and a peak, likely to occur in May.

• $3 a gallon gasoline will be seen in at least the nation’s largest cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Seattle, with a strong possibility of such prices also appearing in a majority of the nation’s t20 largest metros.

"The list of factors being mixed into the yearly forecast has never been larger. This year will see a new administration take over, perhaps the most oil-friendly in some time, and with so many unknowns in regards to policy changes, we’ll be keeping a keen eye on such along with taxation changes. But forecasting fuel prices, especially this year, remains a challenging balance of science and art," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

Additional components that have the potential to weigh on retail gasoline prices include federal and/or state tax changes, Middle East volatility, currency fluctuations, refinery maintenance and/or unscheduled outages, weather events, and shipping / transportation snafus.

"In recent years the 'price at the pump' continues to garner more media attention serving as an economic barometer on Main Street that stirs opinions from a broad swath of consumers from coast to coast," said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst. "Forecasting the direction of that 'barometer', the potential trouble-spots and how the trends are likely to translate into dollars and cents affords us the opportunity to share insights that help everyone save money, even when prices are climbing."

Average retail gasoline prices in Ohio have risen 5.8 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.37 per gallon Sunday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 5,345 gas outlets in Ohio. This compares with the national average that has increased 2.1 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.37 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

Including the change in gas prices in Ohio during the past week, prices Sunday were 49.8 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 19.6 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 16.2 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 39.3 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

According to GasBuddy historical data, gasoline prices on Jan. 9 in Ohio have ranged widely over the last five years: $1.87/g in 2016, $2.02/g in 2015, $3.25/g in 2014, $3.15/g in 2013 and $3.39/g in 2012.

Areas near Ohio and their current gas price climate:

• Akron- $2.29/g, up 5.1 cents per gallon from last week's $2.24 per gallon.

• Dayton- $2.40/g, up 9.1 cents per gallon from last week's $2.31 per gallon.

• Columbus- $2.40/g, up 7.7 cents per gallon from last week's $2.32 per gallon.

"If there’s ever a time one could expect gasoline prices to flatline, this week should be one of them,” Laskoski said.

“Given the Department of Energy report last week of a huge build in gasoline inventory followed by the brutal one-two punch from Winter Storms Helena and Iras, that brings immediate and downward pressure on fuel prices. Between the two storms they’ve brought nearly a foot of rain, mudslides and rockslides to California and Nevada; snow, sleet and freezing rain in the Pacific northwest; snow and ice storms in the Plains and upper Midwest; and winter advisories in effect from the Deep South all the way to the northeast where nearly a foot of snow brought travel to a crawl on the I-95 corridor from North Carolina to Portland, Maine,” Laskoski added.

Winter Storm Iras is expected in the Midwest and Northeast early this week.

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