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Fuel prices approaching $3 per gallon as summer closes in

Lee Herald Favicon 16A midweek spike in fuel prices sees many drivers around Southwest Florida and the nation paying as much as a dime more compared to what they were just a week ago as gas prices creep every closer to $3 per gallon for the first time in years.

The rally was sparked by an announcement made last week by the White House that President Donald Trump planned to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal and would re-impose economic sanctions on the country.

On Monday, drivers in Naples were paying an average of $2.81 per gallon, up from $2.74 a week ago but peaked at $2.82 over the weekend. That’s nearly 40 cents more than this time a year ago. In Lee County, drivers are paying 11 cents more than last week, at $2.79 per gallon. Statewide, drivers saw an increase of about 10 cents in the last week on average, while the national average was $2.87 on Monday.

Now, with the start of summer driving season just weeks away, the possibility of $3 per gallon gas – something analysts were dismissing as recently as the beginning of this month, is looking like more and more of a certainty. If the national average does breach $3 per gallon, it would be for the first time since 2014.

“Some of the factors at play in the rising prices: President Trump’s withdraws the U.S. from the nuclear deal with Iran and oil supplies that have continued to drop as U.S. exports surpass Venezuela—a surprising feat given Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis. In addition, as money continues to flow into commodities as bets for higher oil prices rise, there’s a strong chance of seeing crude oil prices continue to rally in the weeks ahead, with the odds of hitting $3 per gallon nationally now better than 65 percent just in time for the summer driving season.”

According to the American Automobile Association, 19 percent of gas stations nationwide are already selling regular gas over the $3 mark. The nation’s most expensive gas, as is the usual, can be found in California, with an average price of $3.69 on Monday.

It’s not just geopolitics driving the prices at the pump – a longstanding supply glut in the oil market has been tightening in recent years and has helped push oil over $70 per barrel – drivers are also playing a part, says AAA’s The Auto Club Group.

“Gas prices are their highest in years, yet that doesn’t seem to be slowing motorists down,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The latest round of figures from the EIA shows that gasoline demand is significantly higher than this time last year. A strong economy is helping to fuel motorists along, as we approach the most traveled Memorial Day in more than a dozen years. Those people affected by the higher prices at the pump, are likely cutting back on other expenses like shopping and dining out.”

AAA is reporting that this Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer for many around the county and the start of peak driving season, is expected to be the most traveled one since 2005, with an estimated 41.5 million Americans hitting the roads or the airports.

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