Gasoline prices start 2017 41 cents higher than a year ago

Prices at the pump continue to surge to start the New Year with average prices 41 cents higher per gallon in the Houston area than a year ago and 36 cents more nationwide.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline jumped nearly 6 cents in the last week up to $2.13 in the Greater Houston area and to $2.35 nationwide. Prices rose by 20 cents a gallon just in the past month.

Fuel prices have continued to trail the steady rise in oil prices for more than 10 months with the U.S. benchmark now trading just below $55 per barrel. The biggest boost came from the OPEC agreement at the end of November to cut production levels starting in January.

The nearly two-year oil bust gave Americans in 2016 their lowest gasoline prices since 2004, according to GasBuddy, which tracks fuel prices and refining activity.

“If motorists made a resolution to pay less in 2017, they either broke it already or aren’t planning on driving for a while,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

Houston-area fuel prices were at $1.72 a gallon this time a year ago, and at $2.02 at the beginning of 2015. But prices were much higher at $3.13 a gallon to start 2014 before the oil bust began.

While nearly 100,000 gas stations in the country were selling for $1.99 per gallon or less a year ago, fewer than 3,000 are today, DeHaan added.

While fuel prices could fall a little through February as cheaper winter-grade fuels are unloaded, gasoline prices are only expected to rise more in the spring and early summer.