Hur­ri­cane pushes gas prices near 2-year high

But they are still far be­low all-time mark of $4.11 in July 2008

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Nathan Bomey

Gaso­line prices are spi­ral­ing to­ward a two-year high with the La­bor Day rush ap­proach­ing af­ter Hur­ri­cane Har­vey rav­aged the Texas Gulf Coast.

The storm brings what had been a sum­mer of low gas prices to what could be­come a sur­pris­ing end, far costlier than any­one ex­pected ear­lier this month.

With 15 re­finer­ies closed as of Wed­nes­day due to flood­ing, gaso­line prices are ris­ing. The na­tional av­er­age hit $2.43 per gal­lon as of 2:15 p.m. Wed­nes­day, up 7 cents from a week ago, ac­cord­ing to con­sumer in­for­ma­tion site GasBuddy.com.

AAA pegged the av­er­age

“Be­yond two weeks the in­creases should wind down, but you’ll still see gas prices af­fected by Har­vey for at least a month.”

GasBuddy petroleum an­a­lyst

Pa­trick DeHaan

price at $2.40 on Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Prices could soon top the two-year high of $2.50 from Au­gust 2015, AAA’s Jeanette Cas­se­lano said.

“I think the big­gest in­creases will be now over the next five days,” GasBuddy petroleum an­a­lyst Pa­trick DeHaan said. “Be­yond two weeks the in­creases should wind down, but you’ll still see gas prices af­fected by Har­vey for at least a month.”

Over­all, the na­tion­wide av­er­age is ex­pected to peak with an in­crease of 15 cents to 25 cents, up from an ini­tial out­look of 5 cents to 15 cents, DeHaan pro­jected. It’s an un­usual trend for gas, which typ­i­cally kicks into re­verse gear fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of the La­bor Day driv-

ing sea­son.

Amer­i­cans are pay­ing about 19 cents more per gal­lon than a year ago, which equates to nearly $3 more per 15-gal­lon fill-up, ac­cord­ing to AAA. But with prices still far be­low their all-time high mark of $4.11 per gal­lon set in July 2008, mo­torists prob­a­bly won’t can­cel late-sum­mer road trips.

“I think they’ll stick to their plans,” Cas­se­lano said.

The lat­est cat­a­lyst driv­ing prices higher was Wed­nes­day’s an­nounced clo­sure of the Sau­diowned Mo­tiva oil re­fin­ery in Port Arthur, Texas, the largest re­fin­ery in the U.S. at 635,000 bar­rels per day, ac­cord­ing to the Oil Price In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice.

Other ma­jor re­finer­ies in the re­gion, in­clud­ing Exxon Mo­bil’s plant in Bay­town, have been crip­pled by sim­i­lar con­di­tions.

With Mo­tiva down and other re­cent clo­sures, about 25% of the na­tion’s gaso­line re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity is off­line, DeHaan said.

Sev­eral re­finer­ies in the Cor­pus Christi area are al­ready mak­ing plans to re­open this week, ac­cord­ing to IHS Markit an­a­lysts. Also, IHS re­ported that no re­finer­ies have re­ported long-term dam­age, likely lim­it­ing the last­ing ef­fect on gas prices. But with all four Houston ports closed, the flow of en­ergy prod­ucts in the re­gion is at a near stand­still un­til flood wa­ters sub­side.

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