Gas averages top $3 for first time since 2014

Despite a major pipeline shutdown, the Southeast’s prices remain lowest in nation
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 12:50 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gas prices continue to climb amid a major fuel pipeline’s temporary shutdown due to a weekend cyberattack and the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline topped $3, the first time it’s reached that level since late 2014, according to AAA.

AAA said the average price has climbed more than six cents in the last week and is “likely to climb higher” on news of Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown of a key pipe that supplies nearly 50 percent of the East Coast’s fuel.

AAA reports the average price is up from $2.86 a month ago. It was $1.85 a year ago as the pandemic was sweeping across the country and forcing people to stay home.

A national view of average gas prices, as of May 12.
A national view of average gas prices, as of May 12.(Source: AAA)

Despite the rise in fuel prices, and the effects of the pipeline shutdown on the Southeast, gas price averages remain significantly lower across the South than the rest of the country.

Prices in the South range from a low of $2.68 in Mississippi to $2.82 in South Carolina with Georgia as an outlier at a regional high $2.95.

Alabama is near the middle of the region’s prices at $2.78 with the highest prices in Macon County at $3.07 per gallon and the lowest in Clay County at $2.66.

The nation’s East and West coasts have significantly higher averages with California well above that of other states at $4.11.

Despite Colonial Pipeline’s expectation that its systems will be back online by the end of the week, panic buying has sent prices higher and supplies have been artificially drained in some places.

[READ MORE: Some gas stations out of fuel, scramble on for new routes after Colonial Pipeline hack]

Even before the pipeline attack, though, fuel costs were on the rise.

“While this is not a milestone anyone wants to celebrate, it’s a sign that things are slowly returning to normal,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a travel and navigation app that helps drivers find the lowest gas prices in their area.

“In this case, rising gas prices are a sign Americans are getting back out into the world,— attending baseball games, going to concerts, taking a road trip — basically staying anywhere but at home,” De Haan added.

GasBuddy experts don’t expect summer gas price records, but believe they’ll look more like 2018 when the average hit around $3.00 before falling back into the upper $2 to low $3 per gallon range.

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