by Shereen Siewert
As Texas refineries struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey, national gas prices still remain more than 12 percent higher than they were a month ago.
On Monday, Wisconsin drivers paid an average of $2.45 per gallon at the pump, the same as they paid on Sunday and 8 cents less than they paid a week ago, according to AAA data. But the current price is still up from the days before Hurricane Harvey hit, devastating parts of Texas and damaging oil refineries.
According to GasBuddy’s user-generated data, prices reported for gasoline in Wausau over the last 24 hours ranged from $2.39 at an R-Store station on Third Street to $2.47 per gallon at a Grand Avenue R-Store and several Kwik Trip locations.
The average price nationally is $2.61 per gallon.
Prices rose soon after the storm struck, in response to reduced gas supplies. The hurricane’s strong winds and massive flooding took offline about one quarter, or 2.5 million per day, of the Gulf Coast’s oil refining capacity, according to the Oil Price Information Service.
The storm forced the closure of eight Texas refineries and spurred others to operate at reduced capacities. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, gas prices nationwide jumped 4 cents in a single week, the largest increase of the summer, according to AAA.
“No doubt, Harvey has impacted operations and access to refineries in the Gulf Coast. However a clear understanding of overall damage at the refineries is unknown,” AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano said in a written statement. “Despite the country’s overall oil and gasoline inventories being at or above five-year highs, until there is clear picture of damage and an idea when refineries can return to full operational status, gas prices will continue to increase.”
Earlier this week, for the first time in more than two weeks, gas prices seemed to be holding steady, according to AAA, despite Hurricane Irma making landfall in Florida last weekend. Though power outages, impassable roads, and other challenges are making it difficult to get gas to people in Florida, prices have so far remained level.
But that still could change, even though the storms have passed, cautioned Casselano.
“As refineries slowly come back online, states along the East Coast can expect gas prices to remain volatile as a result of already tight supply levels stemming from Harvey combined with the impact of Hurricane Irma,” she said.
Crude oil is the largest factor affecting the retail price of gas, but many factors can cause crude prices to spike, including weather-related or geopolitical uncertainty. Crude prices often rise in response to disruptions in the international or domestic supply chain, according to the EIA, such as what is happening now.