BAY AREA, Calif. August 29, 2017 - U.S. gas prices will likely rise to their highest prices since 2015 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey pounding the Gulf Coast, and heavy travel demand on the West Coast ahead of Labor Day, according to AAA.
“The near-term combinations of Labor Day, increased demand and the tightened supply levels in the Gulf means U.S. motorists are likely to see gas prices increase 5 to 15 cents in the coming week,” AAA Northern California spokesman Michael Blasky said. “Right now it’s unclear just how long these refineries could be shut down, which will determine how high prices go.”
AAA predicts the largest retail price surge of 2017 over the next 10 days, likely pushing the national price for gasoline to the $2.50 range and keeping California above $3 a gallon. At least eight refineries across Texas were offline as of Tuesday afternoon.
California is unlikely to see the brunt of the nation's price increases because it sources most of its gasoline from refineries within the Golden State and isn’t reliant on Gulf Coast refineries, according to Blasky. Across the state, prices had increased an average of 3 cents since last week.
“California is always susceptible to price spikes, but when it happens it’s normally because of an issue with refineries in our own state,” Blasky said. “California oil won’t likely be redirected to the Gulf Coast or the East Coast because to backfill supply issues.”
Blasky noted that most Californians were already paying more than $3 for gas because of California's strong economy and heavy travel demand, and most refineries have been running at high production levels nearly all summer to offset the demand.
According to AAA surveys, here are the top Labor Day travel trends:
* Should I stay or should I go? The majority of AAA survey respondents (64 percent) plan on traveling over the upcoming holiday weekend.
* Couples retreat! With the school year back in full swing, Labor Day tends to be more popular among parties of two. Lake Tahoe is the most popular driving destination for Northern Californians, and Las Vegas is most popular for air travelers.
* Burning desire? Burning Man in the Northern Nevada desert will likely cause traffic jams in the region. Plan ahead: Take water, food, maps and emergency equipment to make sure you aren’t stranded.
* The great outdoors is calling. Spending time outdoors tops the list of Labor Day activities (70 percent), followed by dining out (53 percent) and indoor recreation, such as museums and shopping (23 percent).
Tipsy Tow returns for last summer holiday
To help Californians send off summer safely, AAA is offering Labor Day Tipsy Tow service. Service will start at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4, and will run through 6 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5. During the service period, drivers, passengers, party hosts, bartenders and/or restaurant managers can:
Call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) between 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and 6 a.m. Sept. 5 and state that they need a “Tipsy Tow.” Provide the driver’s name, home address, phone number and vehicle/driver location.
Tipsy Tow provides a free 10-mile tow and ride home for the driver, their vehicle and one passenger. For mileage beyond this, motorists are charged a standard towing rate. The service does not include roadside assistance.
“If you’ll be celebrating the last long weekend of summer by consuming alcohol, make sure you have a safe ride home. If those plans fall through, call AAA for a Tipsy Tow and we’ll get you home safely,” Blasky said.