Despite the longest streak of increases in the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline since summer - including a 4-cent jump in just the past week - Americans are still paying less at the pump than they were last year at this time, according to AAA.
As of Monday, the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.35, 6 cents more than a month earlier amid a series of price increases during the past 11 consecutive days. That's the longest since a 21-day streak between late July and mid-August in 2012. Still, the first 28 days of 2013 have seen an overall 6-cent increase compared with 14 cents during the first 28 days of last year, AAA stated. The most dramatic increases have occurred in the central U.S., with nine states seeing price increases between a dime and 17 cents a gallon in just the past week, including Illinois, Idaho, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.
While last year's price increases resulted partly from tensions with Iran, this year's have been affected by an improving economy and regional refinery issues in Illinois, New Mexico, Texas, California and Washington, AAA stated. Such challenges may not be going away anytime soon, as New York-based oil company Hess announced this week that it would shut down its Port Reading, N.J., refinery by the end of next month, likely forcing prices up in the Northeast.
The Steve's Friendly BP Gas Station at the Friendly Center says "BP" on the sign. However, it's one of the few locally-owned gas stations in town.
The owner has worked there for 40 years. He says the rise and fall of gas prices bothers him just as much.
"It's very aggravating. There is no reason why gas should change prices four or five times in a week," Steve McKoin said.
McKoin pays for the gas as you pump it. BP charges him their going-rate for the day, and he has to adjust his prices based on BP's selling price. He earns about three cents a gallon.
Credit card companies usually charge a three-percent fee for every purchase. At times, he's not making any money. Sometimes, he loses money.
"At midnight, my price changes. If it goes up tonight, then I'll have to move the price the next day. What's in the ground does not belong to me," McKoin said.
A recent USA Today article blames the price increases on issues at refineries. Some are shutting down or reducing their production. With prices this high, if your car runs on premium gas, you might consider a cheaper grade. However, mechanics at Holland Auto Care Center say that's a bad idea.
"If you use it too much, at some point, you will cause excess cylinder wear, which therefore will lead to engine damage and possible replacement," Technician James Tyson said.
Once or twice won't hurt, but if you hear your engine start to rattle, it's probably because you put in the cheaper blend of gas.
The mechanic also told WFMY News 2 using premium blends of gas in cars that don't require it probably isn't worth it. Yes, you do get a bit of a performance boost. But, premium blends burn faster. So, you'll have to fill up more often.