The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Community News Network

February 6, 2013

Gasoline prices surge for third straight winter

Here we go again. For the third straight winter, retail gasoline prices have accelerated.

The national average price of self-serve regular is over $3.54 a gallon, according to AAA. It's up 15 cents in a week and 25 cents in a month.

In case you've forgotten, the same thing happened in early 2011. At the time, the increase was attributed to worries in the market that political instability in Libya would lead to supply shortages.

In 2012, when prices shot up again, it was blamed on tensions with Iran over its nuclear program. The worry was that any kind of Persian Gulf dust-up would interrupt oil supplies.

No Middle East turmoil

This year, there's a shortage of oil-producing Middle East tensions but that has not prevented retail gasoline prices from making their annual February surge. So what's to blame for this year's pain at the pump?

According to a consensus among industry analysts, this year's price rise is mostly to be blamed on U.S. refineries shutting down for scheduled maintenance. In other words, a completely foreseeable and, perhaps, controllable set of circumstances has caused the market to spike.

Other reasons that have been given for the sudden increase in price is optimism about economic recovery, even though the economy declined in the fourth quarter. Also, the fact that refineries, once they are operating again, will be switching over to summer-blends, which are more expensive.

However, consumers with long memories will recall that these annual occurrences rarely seemed to result in the big price increases we have seen over the last three winters.

Don't blame the service stations

It's useful for consumers to also remember that their local service station operator is not to blame for the price at the pump. The station buys the fuel from a wholesale distributor, who obtains the product on the open market. Beginning last month, that market has been very active.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014