U.S. gas prices are slightly lower than last week because of factors like lower oil prices, though the national scene masks regional volatility, AAA reported.
The motor club reports a national average retail price for a gallon of gas at $2.34 for Tuesday, a fraction of a percent higher than the previous day, but about a half percent lower than last week. The price at the pump mirrors crude oil prices, which have been trading in a relatively narrow range near the $50 per barrel mark.
The official summer driving season draws to a close in September, though AAA said in its weekly retail market report that markets may get tighter "as demand continues full steam ahead."
Summer demand pressures usually push gasoline prices higher, though the market is balanced somewhat by strong U.S. gasoline and crude oil production. A report from S&P Global Platts, which provides information and benchmark prices for the energy market, said crude oil and gasoline inventories from last week are both expected to show declines, however.
By region, the West Coast is the most expensive market in the country and prices at the pump were likely skewed higher by the demand pressures from tourists hitting the area to move into the path of totality for Monday's solar eclipse. Oregon prices jumped 10 cents per gallon and the regional market overall was strained by a decline in gasoline inventory levels for the third week in a row.
The Great Lakes market is the most volatile in the nation, with Indiana leading the pack with a 10 cent decline in retail gasoline prices. That trend could reverse, however, because AAA said inventory levels usually follow gasoline prices lower. The drain on regional gasoline inventory levels last week was the largest in the country.
A federal market report said the national average price for gas is about 2 cents less per gallon than the forecast for the summer driving season. The full-year average price is expected to be $2.33 per gallon for both 2017 and 2018.
Crude oil prices spiked Friday on signs of a slowdown in U.S. exploration and production activity, though forward-looking seasonal issues suggest prices could moderate and bring relief to drivers.