The average price for a gallon of gas in Maine fell nearly 6 cents in the past week, caused by an uncommon springtime occurrence of good supply and relatively low demand. However, as the weather improves, consumer demand is expected to rise, along with prices.
Maine’s average retail gasoline price on Sunday was $3.64, which represents 5.7 cents per gallon less than a week ago, 14.6 cents per gallon less than a month ago, and 33.4 cents per gallon less than a year ago, according to GasBuddy.com’s survey of 1,228 gas stations in Maine.
Nationally, the average gallon of gas cost $3.58 on Sunday, a 4-cent decline in the past week, according to the website.
“It’s certainly an unusual set of circumstance that we’ve seen this spring,” Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, told the Bangor Daily News on Monday. “The last time we saw gas prices at the end of March that were lower than at the beginning of the month was in 2003, so it doesn’t happen often that we see prices go down in the springtime.”
National reports show a healthy inventory of crude oil and gas, and that East Coast refineries are operating on average at nearly 88 percent, Laskoski said.
“What we’re seeing right now indicates that the available gas supply is outpacing consumer demand,” he said.
Gas prices in Maine reached record levels in February, caused by a seasonal jump in prices when refineries transition from producing a winter blend of gasoline to a summer blend. The transition requires some reduction in output, Laskoski said. On Feb. 13, East Coast refineries were only operating at 75.9 percent capacity, he said.
The transition seemed to go more smoothly this year than in the past, he said.
In the short term, the prices could continue to fall, but Laskoski doesn’t expect the drop presages a long-term trend. Warmer weather is ahead, which usually increases consumer demand and therefore prices, he said.
“The closer we get to Memorial Day weekend, the greater the demand for gasoline nationwide,” he said. “Right now it appears on April 8 that the nation’s average price of gas peaked on Feb. 27 at $3.79 [per gallon], but we have a long way to go to get through the summer season. I don’t think we’re ready to say definitively that the peak gas price of 2013 is already behind us. It could be ahead of us.”