Gas Watch: Prices climb as Spring Break travel season gets underway

Gas pump handle
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AUSTIN ( -- Austin-area drivers saw a jump at the pump this week, with prices rising ahead of the beginning of Spring Break travel across the state.

AAA Texas' Weekend Gas Watch puts the average price of regular unleaded in the Austin-San Marcos metro area at $3.07 a gallon this week, up 13 cents from last week. The average is 81 cents cheaper than this time last year.

Across the state, prices are up 12 cents to an average of $3.06 a gallon.

Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed in Texas, drivers in El Paso are paying the most on average at $3.44 per gallon while drivers in San Angelo are paying the least at $2.91 per gallon.

Demand for fuel continues to climb while regional supplies have dropped over the last week. Another reason for the pump price increase is that the seasonal switch to summer blend gasoline is underway. This blend is designed to lower emissions during the summer and is more expensive to refine. Switching to summer blend usually adds about five to ten cents to the price of retail gasoline.

When it comes to the main ingredient in gasoline, crude oil, inflation and higher interest rates are on the minds of market watchers. This comes as uncertainty remains in the forecast for the possibility of an economic slowdown while demand for travel remains optimistic. That, coupled with headlines about fuel demand out of China changing daily – the price of crude oil continues to swing between around $70 to just over $80 a barrel.

“As a busy Spring Break season gets underway, increasing pressure on fuel demand is causing retail gas prices to increase,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “While gas prices have climbed above $3 again in many areas across the state, the average price for fuel is significantly cheaper than at this time last year, which will likely spur demand for travel this spring and summer.”

The rise in the statewide average means Texas drivers are now paying the third lowest price in the country, behind Mississippi and Missouri.

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