It was about this time a month ago when market watchers predicted gas prices were poised for a seasonal slide of up to 15 cents per gallon because of a slowdown in consumer demand.
Instead? Costs continue to face upward pressure, pushing early-February prices to their highest levels since 2014 across the Bradenton-Sarasota area as well as Florida.
The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in the two-county area jumped 8 cents in the past week, reaching $2.59 on Monday, according to travel club AAA.
For context, that’s up from $2.51 a week ago, $2.43 a month ago and $2.26 a year ago across Bradenton-Sarasota.
The important question: Where do prices go from here?
Though analysts feel prices could decline in small increments for the rest of February, it won’t be long before refineries transition into maintenance season, which usually pushes costs higher as spring approaches.
We’re seeing more issues weigh on oil prices ... that have been creating somewhat of a storm at the pump.
Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis
“While we could some small discounts this month, those will likely be erased as we move into refinery maintenance season,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “Typically maintenance season reaches its peak in mid-March. This results in reduced refinery output and rising prices at the pump.”
Should costs climb into the $2.70s – or worse – as spring approaches, it would be the highest prices since the state average reached $2.73 in mid-September, following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
According to fuel-tracking website GasBuddy, Manatee County motorists were paying the highest prices on Monday – $2.61 per gallon – when compared to surrounding areas. Drivers in Sarasota County were paying an average of $2.59 per gallon, while Pinellas and Hillsborough motorists were seeing $2.57.
$2.59The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in the Bradenton-Sarasota area on Monday, up from $2.51 a week ago.
The statewide average of $2.61 on Monday was the same as the national average.
“We’re seeing more issues weigh on oil prices ... that have been creating somewhat of a storm at the pump,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis.
Perhaps of some solace: The Bradenton-area average of $2.59 per gallon on Monday was among the lowest in the state, trailing Punta Gorda ($2.57), The Villages ($2.58) and Jacksonville ($2.58).
As usual, Florida’s most-expensive averages are in the southern part of the state – West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.72), Miami ($2.65) and Naples ($2.64).