With Memorial Day approaching, Americans are getting ready for summer travel—which means more gas. This year, gas prices are lower than they were this time last year, despite recent price increases.
AAA predicted that about 33 million Americans will drive more than 50 miles this weekend, the most holiday travel at this time in ten years. But will they pay more for gas? Survey says yes—about 70 cents more per gallon than was paid in January. However, the average cost for a gallon of regular gas is $2.73, which, though it’s the highest so far this year, is still lower than last year, when prices hit $3.69 per gallon around this time.
Michael Green of AAA says drivers are actually experiencing some of the lowest gas prices in the last five years. “Gas prices are much cheaper than in recent years because crude oil is so much lower,” he said. “Oil prices are $50 less than last summer.”
That means drivers could save an estimated $80 billion by the end of the summer—that’s $400 per household.
There is a major exception, however: California gas prices continue to soar above the rest of the country at around $4 a gallon. Alaska gas prices are also quite high at around $3.40 per gallon. Drivers in the South and Midwest are faring better with prices around $2.50 per gallon.
Experts suggest that the recent rise in gas prices across the board is due to normal seasonal fluctuations. In the summer, gas companies begin to produce a different blend than is used during other times of the year. The summer mix is meant to reduce smog and air pollution, particularly in bigger cities. The process of making the gas means it’s more expensive than what’s available in the fall and winter. So it’s pretty typical that prices would go up around now, and they are expected to fall again around July or August in time for Labor Day travels.