Drivers are paying the highest prices for gas on Independence Day since 2008 and costs are expected to stay expensive through the summer, but that will have little to no bearing on summer travel plans.
That’s the forecast from AAA, which expects nationwide averages this month to range in between $3.60 and $3.70 per gallon — nearly 20 cents above last July’s average. Typical summer demand is predicted to remain high despite the increase, however, and nearly 41 million Americans will be celebrating their independence this weekend with a road trip — nearly 2 percent more than the 40.3 million who did so last year.
The average price in Columbus for a gallon of regular gas was $3.45, one cent over the state average but 22 cents lower than the national average. Mississippi has the third lowest state average price for gas in the country according to AAA data.
Despite the six-year high for gas prices in early July, prices have stayed below the spring peaks experienced from 2011-13, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Halfway through 2014, the average prices of gasoline nationwide has been $3.54 per gallon, the lowest for the first six months since 2011.
Columbus resident John Wilson said he’d considered driving to Biloxi this weekend. He decided against it, but said the price of gas didn’t influence his decision. He said he budgets based on gas prices being where they are now and said they haven’t reached a point where he couldn’t hit the road if he wanted to.
“I imagine it won’t be too long before it does,” Wilson said, “but not at the moment.”
AAA says the primary blame for the increase in global petroleum costs is market fear due to the continuing turmoil in Iraq. A major refinery disruption or a severe hurricane season could drive the price up even more.
“It is frustrating that events overseas will make it more expensive to celebrate Fourth of July here at home,” AAA spokesman Avery Ash said in a recent report.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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