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US average gas price flies past $4, Idaho soon to follow

It’s been another rough weekend at the pump. According to AAA, the national average is now above the $4-per-gallon mark for the first time since July 2008, and Idaho gas prices could follow today. Escalated conflict between Russia, Ukraine and other nations continues to drive crude oil prices higher and, in turn, gas prices. 

Currently, the United States average price for regular is $4.07, which is 46 cents more than a week ago, 63 cents more than a month ago, and $1.30 more than a year ago. Meanwhile, Idaho’s average price is $3.96, which is 42 cents more than a week ago, 44 cents more than a month ago, and $1.24 more than a year ago. The Gem State currently ranks 26th in the country for most expensive fuel.

Traffic in downtown Boise, April 2016, Photo Patrick Sweeney

“These high prices are a bitter pill for drivers to swallow. We’ve now reached the point where some people may have to think about revising or even canceling their spring break plans,” AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde said. “Gasoline demand is still building as the weather gets nicer, but that may grind to a halt if families decide that they can no longer reallocate funds to pay for expensive fill-ups.” 

The nation’s top 10 most expensive markets are:

  1. California ($5.34)
  2. Hawaii ($4.69)
  3. Nevada ($4.59)
  4. Oregon ($4.51)
  5. Washington ($4.44)
  6. Alaska ($4.39)
  7. Illinois ($4.30)
  8. Connecticut ($4.28)
  9. New York ($4.26)
  10. Pennsylvania ($4.23)

The West Texas Intermediate benchmark for crude oil is currently trading near $117 per barrel, which is $19 more than a week ago, $26 more than a month ago and $52 more than a year ago.   

Current domestic crude oil stocks are approximately 15% lower than a year ago, and gasoline demand also rose slightly in the last week to 8.74 million barrels per day, with both putting pressure on gas prices. As tensions build surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the possibility of boycotting Russian oil exports, the price of crude could climb even higher. 

“Increased fuel demand and the upcoming switch to more-expensive summer-blend fuel still loom on the horizon,” Conde said. “We may be in for a very bumpy ride.” 

Last week, the International Energy Agency announced the largest coordinated release of crude oil in the organization’s history, with 31 member nations committing to release a total of nearly 62 million barrels from their strategic reserves. However, this amount is small in comparison to the quantity of crude that flows from Russia, an estimated five million barrels per day. 

Ways to save on fuel:

  • Tires & maintenance — keep your vehicle in top shape with routine inspections and make sure your tires are properly inflated. 
  • Plan ahead — map your route before you go to minimize unnecessary turnarounds and backtracking. Avoid peak travel times, and bundle errands whenever possible. 
  • Watch your speed — fuel economy peaks at around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speeds increase. Reducing highway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%. 
  • Avoid excessive idling — a car engine consumes one quarter to one-half gallon of fuel per hour when idling, but a warm engine only takes around 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart. Where safe to do so, shut off your engine if you will be stopped for more than a minute. 
  • Anticipate road conditions — watch the traffic ahead and “time” stoplights to maintain momentum and avoid unnecessary stop and go. 
  • Regular vs. Premium — if regular gas is recommended for your vehicle, that’s all you need. Opting for premium when your car doesn’t require it will only cost you money and doesn’t improve fuel economy. For more information, check your owner’s manual. 

Here’s a look at Idaho gas prices as of March 7: 

Boise — $4.14 (was $3.61 a week ago) 

Coeur d’Alene — $3.85 (was $3.36 a week ago) 

Franklin — $3.76 (was $3.37 a week ago) 

Idaho Falls — $3.79 (was $3.41 a week ago) 

Lewiston — $3.82 (was $3.40 a week ago) 

Pocatello — $3.84 (was $3.50 a week ago) 

Twin Falls — $3.97 (was $3.62 a week ago) 

— The above information has been provided by AAA.

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