Good news for gas prices

Published 10:31 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

Suffolk motorists can expect an easier time at the gas station as gas prices return to normal in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The national gas price average was reported to be leveling off at $2.67, according to a Monday press release by the American Automobile Association. Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public affairs for AAA Tidewater, said Suffolk has been following the same price trend as Hampton Roads, which is slightly lower than the state average.

“What we have been seeing is that flattening out, and we’re hoping it’s the beginning of gas prices getting back to normal,” Blumling said.

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On Sept. 7, AAA Tidewater reported a 28-cent increase in gas prices in Hampton Roads compared to the week before, a price hike attributed to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Motorists in Florida and the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina rushed to fill up their gas tanks in advance of Hurricane Irma making landfall, which threatened Colonial Pipeline supply levels from Alabama to Virginia.

According to the press release, however, supply was less concerning than minimizing panic among motorists and delivering gasoline where it was needed.

“There is not a gasoline shortage in the U.S., but instead localized challenges — power outages, impassable roads, debris — in Florida keeping gasoline supplies from where they are needed most,” Jeanette Casselano, AAA public relations director, stated in the press release.

Starting Friday, prices will continue to decline, as the Environmental Protection Agency will allow certain refineries to prepare their so-called winter gasoline, Blumling said.

Gasoline grades are measured by RVP, or Reid Vapor Pressure. Gases with higher RVP pose a greater risk for the environment but are cheaper to produce. Gasoline produced for the summer months has lower RVP, compared to winter months, making summer gasoline more expensive.

This is why drivers see lower costs at the pumps when temperatures drop, Blumling said.

She expects that as time moves past the recent hurricanes and the peak of summer traveling, demand and prices should predictably fall.

“Barring any other natural disaster, if the trend continues as it normally does for this time of year, then we should see those gas prices slowly recede,” she said.