standing gas pump

PROVIDENCE — Motorists are paying nine cents more at the pump this week and 25 cents more than a month ago as gas prices continue to rise in the wake of a winter storm in the southern U.S. that took 26 refineries offline.

A survey of prices in Rhode Island conducted by AAA Northeast on Monday found self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline averaging $2.64 per gallon. The price, which remains 18 cents higher than it was on March 1, 2020, is eight cents lower than the national average.

The latest price jumps are a direct result of February’s winter storm that took U.S. refineries offline, pushing refinery utilization from an average of about 83% down to an atypical low of 68%, according to the Energy Information Administration. The EIA also reported demand at 7.2 million barrels per day.

“Barring hurricane season, March may bring the most expensive pump prices of 2021,” said Lloyd Albert, senior vice president of public and government affairs for AAA Northeast. “While the month is roaring in like a lion, by the end of it we could see some relief at the pump as refineries resume normal operations, especially if crude oil prices show signs of stability.”

AAA forecasts the national gas price average to hit at least $2.80 in March. For motorists, that means they can expect continued increases of at least 5 to 10 cents per week locally until refinery operations are stable.

— Jason Vallee

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