East Coast refineries to blame for high Maine gas prices

By Andie Hannon, Sun Journal
Posted July 18, 2012, at 5:45 a.m.

Gas stations on the main drags of the Lewiston-Auburn on Tuesday night looked a little like ghost towns.

Of course, with the state bucking the national trend — and not in a good way — it’s no real wonder as the average price of gas in Maine remained nearly 10 cents higher than the national average.

According to MaineGasPrices.com, Maine’s average gas price Tuesday was $3.55 per gallon; the national average was $3.45 per gallon. The website is operated by GasBuddy Organization, a collection of websites on which consumers post and view retail gas-pricing information by state.

“I kinda look for the best prices,” said Ryan Coy, 31, of Lewiston, as a friend pumped $40 worth of gas into his Ford van Tuesday. “I noticed it was going back up. It was going down for a while and it had been nice.”

Coy, who is in a wheelchair and needs a larger van with a lift, said he was thankful the van he drives has a smaller V6 engine than his old van, which had a V8. Spending the extra cash on gas definitely takes a toll, he said.

“One of the key factors influencing Maine’s gas prices is refinery output — particularly East Coast refinery output,” said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.

Laskoski said East Coast refinery output is at the lowest level of the five regions reviewed weekly by the U.S. Department of Energy. Lower production levels keep prices higher because there is less supply to meet demand, Laskoski said.

According to national data provided by Laskoski, East Coast refinery production is at 81.4 percent. That’s nearly 10 percent lower than the next-lowest production rate, which is the West Coast’s rate of 90.8 percent.

Refineries in the Gulf Coast and Midwest are producing at 93 percent, while those in the Rocky Mountains top the list at 97.4 percent.

Average prices in the Twin Cities were up one cent Tuesday over gas prices Monday according to MaineGasPrices.com. The average price of gas in Lewiston was $3.56 per gallon on Tuesday, one cent higher than its neighbor across the Androscoggin, which saw an average of $3.55 per gallon for the same day.

And yet, while prices continue to rise in Vacationland right at the heart of summer travel season, the national average seems to be holding steady. One silver lining to the dark exhaust cloud hanging over Maine drivers is that the state’s prices remain nearly 27 cents per gallon lower than the same time last year.

Laskoski said one other hope for East Coast drivers is the recent purchase and rebirth of one of the region’s largest refineries in Philadelphia, which originally was scheduled to close later this month. The refinery is the largest of three Pennsylvania-based operations facing tough times and possible closure, which leads to lower production, Laskoski said.

“The ones in Pennsylvania are among the largest on the East Coast,” Laskoski said. “So, as they go, so goes the East Coast.”

Laskoski expects the recent deal at the Philadelphia refinery will lead to increased production and lower gas prices, but he didn’t expect the pain at the pump to get any easier until August.

To see more from the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/07/18/business/east-coast-refineries-to-blame-for-high-maine-gas-prices/ printed on December 19, 2014