In an almost complete reversal of the usual pattern, gas prices in Idaho dropped from Memorial Day until the first part of October last year, followed by a surprising spike in the fall that lasted until Thanksgiving.
“It was ‘all systems go’ last summer in the Gem State,” says AAA Idaho Public Affairs Director Matthew Conde. “Abundant fuel supplies kept up with the high demand, even during the peak travel season. But in the fall, unexpected maintenance issues slowed down our regional refineries and pushed gas prices higher until Turkey Day.”
The least expensive national average price for regular gasoline was $2.23 on January 9, and the highest price was $2.90 on May 6. Idahoans paid the least on February 18 at $2.29 per gallon, and the most on May 24 at $3.21 per gallon.
AAA says that Idaho drivers enjoyed significant savings at the pump in late November and December, as refinery production got back on track and as cold weather and school commitments kept many families closer to home. Barring the unexpected, gas prices could continue to slide in the region for most of the winter before picking up again in the weeks leading up to spring break.
“The switch back to the more expensive summer-blend fuel and decreased crude oil production from OPEC members could apply some upward pressure on gas prices in the spring,” Conde said. “And because unemployment is near a 50-year low and consumer confidence remains quite high, it should be another very busy year for travel, with fuel likely to be in high demand for road trips.”
In January 2018, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut crude oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day in an effort to reduce the global supply and stabilize prices at a higher level. About a month ago, OPEC voted to deepen the existing cuts by an additional 900,000 barrels per day beginning in 2020, with 500,000 b/d from member countries and a voluntary 400,000 b/d additional reduction by Saudi Arabia.
A decrease in the global crude oil supply would eventually impact crude prices and, in turn, gas prices. But the United States is currently producing near-record levels of crude oil, and more non-OPEC crude oil is expected to come online in 2020. That could help offset OPEC’s actions.
Recent geopolitical tension between the United States and Iran could also drive crude oil prices higher in the coming weeks, depending on the outcome and whether things escalate.
The West Texas Intermediate benchmark for crude oil is currently trading near $62 per barrel.
Today, the U.S. average price is $2.59, which is a penny more than a month ago, and 35 cents more than a year ago. In Idaho, the current price is $2.66, which is 25 cents less than a month ago but 13 cents more than a year ago. Idaho is just seven cents above the national average.