Jun. 6—Gasoline prices in Maine hit a historic high this week and are poised to eclipse another benchmark in the next few days.
The statewide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $4.98 Monday, according to GasBuddy, which tracks fuel prices across the country. An analyst for Gas Buddy said Maine is about to join a growing number of states where the average gas price has shot beyond $5 a gallon.
This past week marked the seventh straight week of increasing average gas prices, Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said in a blog post Monday. The national average rose 26 cents a gallon to $4.85 a gallon, he said, and California had the highest average price at $6.32 a gallon, with Georgia the lowest at $4.27 a gallon.
Maine's neighboring states were experiencing similar but slightly lower average gas prices Monday, with Vermont at $4.90 a gallon and New Hampshire at $4.89 a gallon. The statewide average in Massachusetts was $4.94 a gallon.
DeHaan said average gasoline prices nationwide were up 56 cents a gallon from a month ago and $1.81 a gallon from a year ago. In Maine, the average price was up 64 cents from a month ago and $1.95 from a year ago.
The factors that most influence gas prices — from demand to inventories and production — are lined up such that prices at the pump are likely to continue to rise, he said.
Nine states already have average gasoline prices above $5 a gallon, "with more set to join in the days and weeks ahead," DeHaan said. A nationwide average above that mark is a matter of "not if, but when."
"After a blistering week of gas prices jumping in nearly every town, city, state and area possible, more bad news is on the horizon," he said. "Gasoline inventories continue to decline, even with demand softening due to high prices. ... (It's) a culmination of less refining capacity than we had prior to COVID and strong consumption, (creating) a situation that doesn't look to improve drastically anytime soon."
Diesel prices also are climbing, DeHaan said, with the national average now $5.62 a gallon, up 11.5 cents in the last week. GasBuddy doesn't publish average diesel prices by state.
Drivers filling up Monday at an Irving gas station in Kennebunk said they are definitely feeling the higher prices.
"I want them to install crying towels here," Dennis Marcoux of Kennebunk said as he gestured to the pump, where the price for regular unleaded was $5.02 a gallon. Customers who used an Irving debit card to pay for the gas could get a 10 cents-a-gallon discount.
Marcoux said he tries to combine trips if possible to cut down on how much driving he does. For instance, on Monday he scheduled two doctor's appointments for his wife close together so they could go to both on one trip.
Nearby, Lisa D'Orso of Kennebunk said she, too, is watching the miles.
D'Orso said most of her trips are around town, although she can't avoid driving to Biddeford for her daughter's three-times-a-week horseback riding lessons.
Beyond that, "I try to do as little driving as possible," she said.
While prices at the pump are rising, the national and international markets seemed calmer Monday, with prices for most types of crude oil relatively flat.
DeHaan said crude oil prices shot up early last week, but that a decision by OPEC announced later in the week to further boost production would help to dampen that increase.
Still, he said, worldwide demand is expected to increase as China reopens its economy with the coronavirus pandemic appearing to ease. And, he said, Russia won't be able to boost oil output due to sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, so that source of oil will remain tightly constrained.