With spring’s arrival, gas prices are blooming in Utah and neighboring states

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) A gas station near Trolley Square lists regular gas at $3.03 per gallon Tuesday, April 18, 2018. Gas at most stations around Salt Lake City is around $3. Utah has the ninth highest prices nationally, and they will go up entering spring and summer as more motorists hit the road.

Wait a day to fill your gas tank and it’s going to cost you more.

From just Tuesday to Wednesday, the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Utah rose 3 cents to $2.99. Over the past week, it jumped 10 cents. And since mid-March, filling up at the pump has cost Beehive State motorists a whopping 58 cents more per gallon.

“That’s totally sticker shock, isn’t it?” said Michael Blasky, Utah spokesman for the travel service AAA, which tracks gasoline prices closely around the country. “This is the first time in three years that Utah gas prices have been at $3 a gallon.”

He pointed to some figures AAA compiled for Salt Lake City gas prices on April 19 over the past five years:

• 2013 — $3.48 per gallon.<br>• 2014 — $3.29.<br>• 2015 — $2.60.<br>• 2016 — $2.18.<br>• 2017 — $2.41.

It’s natural, Blasky said, for prices to rise in the spring. It happens every year.

“As the weather turns nicer, more people hit the road,” he said. “That’s also when refineries begin selling their more refined summer blend of gasoline, which is better for the environment but more expensive to produce.”

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah has the eighth highest gasoline prices nationally, and the cost of a regular gallon of gas will go up as the spring/summer driving season commences.

But there’s more going on this year.

Part of it is international. Russia and OPEC opted last year to cut production levels, driving world oil prices higher. “Oil was trading at about $40-$50 a barrel for most of 2017,” Blasky noted, “but it surged to $60-$65 in late 2017 and hasn’t come back down.”

Nationally, demand for gasoline has never been higher, pushing prices up further.

The Energy Information Administration reported that gasoline demand last week surged to 9.86 million barrels per day, a mid-April record that Blasky said “signals that the spring driving season is in full throttle.”

And regionally, he added, gas prices were driven higher by a breakdown in March at the HollyFrontier refinery in Woods Cross. “That forced them to slow production, causing retail prices around Utah and the Rockies to rise,” Blasky said.

How much did prices go up in Utah’s five metropolitan areas since mid-March?

• Provo-Orem — Up 63 cents a gallon, $2.36 to $2.98.<br>• Salt Lake City — Up 64 cents, $2.35 to $2.99.<br>• Ogden — Up 59 cents, $3.49 to $2.98.<br>• Logan — Up 49 cents, $2.49 to $2.98.<br>• St. George — Up 46 cents, $2.58 to $3.04.

While these numbers are well above the national average ($2.73 per gallon), AAA figures show that Utah still has the cheapest regular gas in eight Western states. The country’s most expensive pump prices Wednesday were in:

• Hawaii — $3.58.<br>• California — $3.56.<br>• Washington — $3.24.<br>• Alaska — $3.22.<br>• Oregon and Nevada — $3.15.<br>• Idaho — $3.01.<br>• Utah — $2.99.<br>• Pennsylvania — $2.94.<br>• Washington, D.C. — $2.86.