Eclipse Fuels Double-Digit Gas Price Jump in the Northwest

Demand aftereffects may linger before trends reverse: GasBuddy

BOSTON -- Thanks to the recent solar eclipse, some Northwest states saw large jumps in their weekly retail gasoline price averages.

While the nationwide trend for retail gasoline prices was downward, 10 states’ retail averages rose, with most of them in the Northwest and Rockies, according to Boston-based GasBuddy. Oregon, the first state to see eclipse totality on Aug. 21, had the biggest increase, with its retail gasoline price average jumping 12 cents per gallon (CPG) week over week, followed by Idaho (up 8 CPG) and Washington (up 5 CPG).

Among the remaining 40 states, those in the Great Lakes region saw the biggest week-over-week declines. Michigan’s retail average fell 11 CPG, followed by Indiana (down 8 CPG), Ohio (down 8 CPG) and Illinois (down 6 CPG). The next-largest declines were closer to the East Coast, and included New Jersey (down 4 CPG), Massachusetts (down 3 CPG) and South Carolina (down 3 CPG). South Carolina was the last state to see eclipse totality. The national retail average gasoline price fell 2 cents per gallon from the past week to $2.32.

GasBuddy pointed to falling oil prices as the driver of lower gasoline prices, with barrels trading down to $46 before rallying and finishing the week at $48.51. This uptick came after Baker Hughes reported the largest weekly drop in the U.S. oil-rig count since the beginning of 2017, a possible sign that producers are struggling in an environment in which oil prices have not been able to rise above $50 per barrel.

Meanwhile, crude-oil inventories fell 8.9 million barrels, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a decline that was larger than expected by analysts. Total inventories have fallen to their lowest level since January 2016. Gasoline inventories remained stable.

The lowest retail averages as of Aug. 21 were mainly in the Southeast. South Carolina had the lowest average at $2.05 per gallon, followed by Alabama and Mississippi, both at $2.08. Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas rounded out the five states with the lowest retail averages, each at $2.10 per gallon.

GasBuddy expects the Pacific Northwest to have lingering “eclipse-fueled demand spurts” before retail gasoline averages drop toward the end of August. Retail prices in the Great Lakes region may rise as part of a price cycling phenomenon that is typical for the region. And much of the rest of the country should see gasoline prices fall over the coming week.

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