MADISON, Wis. – A rare combination of pipeline and refinery problems has exacerbated already-rising gasoline prices in the Great Lakes region, leading to surges of around 35 cents a gallon in just one week, officials said Friday.
Michigans statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded rose 34 cents during the past week to $3.95, making for the highest per-gallon price in the continental U.S, according to auto club AAA.
The weeks average per-gallon increase in surrounding states ranged from 26 cents in Wisconsin to 33 cents in Illinois and Indiana, officials said.
The national average price for a gallon of unleaded, by comparison, moved up just 8 cents over the week to $3.56.
The rest of the country has seen an increase, but nothing like here in the Midwest, said Pam Moen, a spokeswoman for AAA Wisconsin. I dont think Ive ever seen prices move this much in a couple of days.
The Midwest has seen a confluence of freak problems during the past few weeks that have tightened supplies and pushed prices.
An Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline that transports crude from Superior, Wis., to Chicago-area refineries ruptured July 27, spraying about 50,400 gallons of crude into a southern Wisconsin field.
Meanwhile, equipment problems have closed parts of refineries in Whiting, Ind., Lemont, Ill., and Wood River, Ill., said Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.
The reaction were seeing in gas prices, youd think Iran just tried to close the Strait of Hormuz, said DeHaan, referring to the Persian Gulf route for one-fifth of the worlds oil. Just the possibility of a shortage spooks the market.
Gas prices usually increase in the summer months as demand rises and refineries switch to more expensive, cleaner-burning blends. Plus crude oil prices have risen about $15 a barrel during the last few weeks after bottoming in June at just shy of $78 a barrel, driven largely by positive economic and job forecasts, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Service.
Wholesale prices have risen as a result, which translates to higher prices on the street, he said.
Its the normal nonsense that moves crude, Kloza said. What it reminds everyone is these prices are tremendously volatile.
Drivers should expect gas prices to climb for at least the next few days as retail prices catch up with this weeks 20-cent wholesale increase, Moen said. Pump prices are expected to at least stabilize by next week, she said.