Gas prices in Idaho rise above national average again and it’s here to stay
IDAHO FALLS — The springtime spike in gas prices is here has sent Idaho back over the national average.
Idaho consistently ranks between seventh and ninth place for most pain at the pump in the United States. Idaho AAA Public and Government Affairs Director Matthew Conde explained why that is and what Idahoans can expect at the pump this summer.
“Really what we’re seeing is more of a return to normal rather than just the deep savings we were all enjoying kicking off the year,” Conde said.
Idaho’s gas prices fluctuate significantly between winter and summer months. Dropping during the winter and coming back up during the summer.
“We had a really great fall and winter for gas prices in Idaho. We dropped well below the national average. We dropped well below our usual position,” Conde explained.
As the weather turns nicer, more people get on the road and Conde expects prices to continue to rise up until around Labor Day by 15 to 20 cents before leveling off.
While that may just be returning to normal after abnormally low winter gas prices, the fact still remains, Idaho consistently has higher prices than the national average. And a lot of that has to do with geography.
“We just don’t have a lot of refineries in our region,” Conde said.
The gas the southern half of Idaho receives comes mostly comes from Wyoming. It is refined in Salt Lake City, Utah and sent by pipeline to Idaho. The Salt Lake-area has five refineries.
The northern half of Idaho gets its oil predominantly from Canada and is refined in Montana. Conde said Montana only has three refineries.
“So it’s really just a constrained supply,” he said.
In winter months when fewer people are on the road, the refineries are able to keep up with the demand allowing gas prices to drop.
When summer hits with more and more people traveling causing more demand, the refineries have a harder time keeping up, causing gas prices to rise.
Conde said another exacerbating factor causing summer gas prices to jump so dramatically is that the refineries have to switch what type of gas they produce from winter blend to summer blend.
He explained summer blend gas is more expensive to make because refineries have to include certain chemicals to help prevent the gasoline from evaporating in the heat.
Winter blend doesn’t require the extra additives making it cheaper to produce.
“The other thing that happens at that time, unfortunately, is that the refineries go on a rotating maintenance schedule. Because, if they have to make the switch anyway — they use that as kind of a natural break in the action to catch up on repair,” Conde said.
While the refineries do their repairs on a rotating schedule to limit downtime, it still slows production making it harder to keep up with demand causing gas prices to rise.
“That, combined with summer blend, combined with seasonal demand — those things are the things putting pressure on gas prices,” Conde said.
It’s not all bad news though. The average price for gas in Idaho Falls is $3.02 per gallon. At this time last year, it was $3.17 per gallon. Prices may have exceeded the national average but they are still cheaper than they were last year.