Gas prices are rising in Utah, apparently driven in part by the solar eclipse later this month.
“West Coast refineries are ramping up production in anticipation of the Aug. 21 eclipse, which will draw more than a million sky-watchers to Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming,” said AAA Utah spokesman John Moreno.
The anticipated migration to observe the full eclipse is likely to drive increases at gas stations along the way, he said, adding to a traditional seasonal climb. “AAA predicted prices would increase late in summer due to high travel demand and a reduction in global oil supply.”
Chicago-based petroleum industry analyst Patrick DeHaan at GasBuddy.com thinks rising gas costs have a lot less to do with the eclipse than more traditional pricing factors.
“To suggest refineries are ramping up production for the eclipse is pretty wild. You can thank bigger global supply and demand factors for the way things are moving,” he said, citing political and economic chaos in oil-rich Venezuela and higher U.S. domestic production as issues that “absolutely have an impact.”
Moreno said Utahns paid an average of $2.47 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline on Wednesday, two cents less than a month ago. The decline could have been more, Moreno said, but after slipping steadily for most of the summer, gas prices have been easing up for the past 10 days.
Drivers in Salt Lake City paid an average of $2.42 per gallon, down two cents from a month earlier. The honor for cheapest gas in Utah went to Ogden, whose $2.41-per-gallon average this week was barely better than Salt Lake City’s. Provo was next at $2.43 per gallon.
Gas prices were highest in Moab, rising three cents over the past month to $2.75 per gallon for regular. St. George experienced the biggest monthly increase — 6 cents — in seeing its pump price climb to an average of $2.61 a gallon.
Logan and Vernal came in, respectively, at $2.46 and $2.48 per gallon, Moreno said.
Nationally, the average cost of gas was $2.35 a gallon, 20 cents more than in the second week of August last year. Still, it’s markedly better than the average price of $2.53 a gallon in mid-August of 2015 and $3.50 a gallon in 2014.