Omicron optimism fuels gas price increase

Gasoline prices rose a penny last week, driven primarily by the cost of crude oil, which has vaulted above $80 a barrel.

According to AAA’s Tuesday report, the primary reason for the rise in oil prices is the perception that the COVID-19 omicron variant may ebb, allowing the world’s economic engines to kick into high gear. The potential increase in oil demand, coupled with lagging crude production, will only increase prices.

Since the price of oil accounts for roughly half of what consumers pay at the pump, higher oil costs will likely result in higher gasoline costs. The national average for a gallon of gas stood at $3.31 after the one-cent increase.

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In Gainesville, the average cost for regular unleaded per gallon is $3.24, which is up from $3.20 last week and $3.22 a month ago, according to the AAA. GasBuddy.com reports the Circle K at 19531 NW U.S. Highway 441 in High Springs has the cheapest price at $3.06 per gallon in Alachua County.

“In the past few weeks, we have seen the price for a barrel of oil slowly work its way from the mid $60s to the low $80s,” said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross. “And the primary reason is global economic optimism, whether well-founded or not, that the worst of COVID may soon be behind us.”

According to new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), total domestic gasoline stocks rose by 7.9 million barrels of crude oil (bbl) to 240.7 million bbl last week. On the other hand, gasoline demand decreased from 8.17 million barrels per day (b/d) to 7.91 million b/d. 

Outside of the omicron optimism, winter weather may also be a culprit for the upward pressure on gas prices, according to AAA. 

The national average has remained mostly flat over the last month, but the average of $3.31 is 93 cents more than a year ago.

Quick Stats

The nation’s top 10 largest weekly increases: Iowa (+6 cents), Minnesota (+6 cents), North Carolina (+5 cents), Missouri (+4 cents), North Dakota (+4 cents), Texas (+4 cents), Washington, D.C. (+4 cents), Wisconsin (+4 cents), Oklahoma (+3 cents) and Kansas (+3 cents).

The nation’s top 10 most expensive markets: California ($4.65), Hawaii ($4.32), Washington ($3.95), Oregon ($3.91), Nevada ($3.81), Alaska ($3.76), Arizona ($3.58), Idaho ($3.54), Washington, D.C. ($3.51) and Pennsylvania ($3.51).

Florida ranks 25th in the U.S. with an average price of $3.21 per gallon.

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