After a steady increase in gas prices in recent months, it is possible that national pump prices may be near their seasonal peak, according to the latest report from AAA.
AAA says that gas prices surged this spring due to a rally in crude oil prices from multi-year lows, seasonal refinery maintenance, the annual changeover to summer-blend gasoline and domestic refinery issues that have impacted regional production.
The current national average price of $2.75 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is the highest so far this year, up from a national average of $2.04 seen in late January, according to AAA's report. Today's national average is fractions of a penny higher than it was one week ago and 14 cents more per gallon than it was a month ago.
While pump prices have been gradually rising across the country, AAA points out that the national average remains significantly lower than it was this time last year (-92 cents) and consumers are on target to pay the lowest prices at the pump during the summer driving season since 2009.
Drivers on the West Coast continue to pay the most to refuel their vehicles. California leads the nation with the highest average gas price ($3.69), followed by Hawaii ($3.30), Nevada ($3.30), Alaska ($3.30) and Washington State ($3.06).
On the other end of the spectrum, pump prices in the coastal states of Mississippi and South Carolina are the lowest in the nation, both states average $2.44 per gallon.
AAA says that there is still the possibility that some consumers could see prices temporarily climb higher later this summer if severe weather impacts refinery production. The Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway and spans from June 1-November 30. Any storms that do develop have the potential to disrupt production, refining and distribution. Shortages in supply could lead to regional price spikes and/or shortages in select markets.
Barring any unforeseen events, AAA says that abundant oil and gasoline supplies should help keep gas prices much lower than in recent years. The national average is not expected to breach the $3.00 mark at any point this year.