AAA: Gas prices jumped in July; Aug. could rise higher

Gasoline prices jumped 14 cents per gallon in July, making this the third most expensive summer driving season so far, according to AAA.

The average national pump price took drivers on a roller-coaster ride during the month, surging 20 cents from the summer’s lowest gas price so far on July 7 ($3.47 per gallon) to the summer’s highest on July 19 ($3.67). In total, the average gasoline price grew 3.9 percent during the month, from $3.49 to $3.63.

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Overall, it was the largest monthly increase since February.

“July was a volatile month for consumers with gas prices reeling from the lowest to the highest averages seen in months.” said Avery Ash, AAA spokesman. “A combination of expensive crude oil costs, refinery glitches and rising summer demand resulted in sharp price spikes for many motorists.”

For the entire month, gasoline averaged $3.58 per gallon, 16 cents higher than last July. Still, the month was less costly for drivers than July 2008 and July 2011, when gasoline averaged $4.06 and $3.65 respectively, according to AAA.

Those also were the years with the most expensive average summer gas prices. The average gas price so far this summer is $3.59 per gallon, compared to $4.04 during the same period in 2008 and $3.67 in 2011.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil hit a 16-month high of $108.05 per barrel on July 19. Crude prices account for about two-thirds of consumer gasoline prices, according to AAA.

“Millions of Americans take long road trips in August and any unexpected production problems can result in serious supply and demand issues,” continued Ash. “We often see refinery problems and major hurricanes drive up prices this time of year, which means motorists could be in for a rough time at the pump in the coming weeks if something goes wrong.”

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The direction of gas prices for the rest of the summer driving season, which extends from Memorial Day (May 27) to Labor Day (Sept. 2), largely will depend on weather and refinery performance, AAA noted. Prices were hit hard in August 2012, when Hurricane Isaac temporarily took several refineries out of operation, causing gas prices to surge 33 cents over the month.

Today, a gallon of regular gasoline averages $3.63 per gallon, 13 cents higher than a year ago. Houston drivers are paying an average of $3.51, up 16 cents from a year ago.

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