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Multiple factors push gas prices up
Refinery fires, pipeline problems contribute to lower inventories
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A perfect storm is pushing gas prices up across the nation following refinery fires and pipeline problems in the western United States, and Georgia hasn’t escaped the spike.

The Georgia average for gasoline on Friday was $3.56, up 10 cents from a week ago and 32 cents from one month ago, according to GasBuddy.com, which provides average prices across the country as well as analysis.

That price is comparable to this time last year, when it was just 2 cents more at $3.58. Prices nationally are higher, with a Friday average of $3.66, up 25 cents from one month ago.

Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, attributed the increase to the combination and timing of multiple incidents affecting the supply.

California lost 377 barrels of oil production following two refinery fires in the state. An oil pipeline ruptured in Whiting, Ind. And a spike in corn prices due to drought is pushing up the price of ethanol, which is mixed into gasoline.

“All of these things collectively are pushing crude oil prices pretty high,” Laskoski said, noting that oil was trading at $92-94 a barrel for most of the week.

Analysts and economists say prices for crude oil and wholesale gasoline are set on financial exchanges around the world based on supply and demand and expectations about how those factors may change.

“About three weeks ago we were telling people that the nation’s supply of crude oil and gasoline was pretty healthy,” Laskoski said. “But that has changed, and the Department of Energy has reported for the last two weeks that both crude oil inventory and gasoline inventory have declined.”

Some refineries are also trying to draw down their supply of the summer blend of gasoline as they move toward the Oct. 1 date when the cheaper winter blend can be used, he added.

Analysts don’t expect gas prices to get as high as they did in April, when 10 states passed $4 a gallon and the U.S. average topped out at $3.94. Laskoski said prices are likely to continue climbing until Labor Day, when they should begin to plateau or decline.

“Historically, we see the lowest prices at the pump generally in the fourth quarter of every year, and I think we’re going to see the same thing happen this year,” he said.

Economists said the price bump probably won’t have much of an effect on economic growth, at least not yet. The extra 34 cents a gallon nationally translates to $33 per month for a typical household.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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