By Shereen Siewert

Though the price of gas in Wausau and nationwide is expected to fall between now and the start of Memorial Day weekend, experts say the cost of gas for summer road trips will likely be the highest since 2014.

The national average price of gasoline is expected to be $2.98 per gallon on Memorial Day, a slight drop from current prices but a $1.02 increase over the holiday weekend last year. This will also be the highest they have been on Memorial Day since 2014 when it reached $3.66, according to GasBuddy.

GasBuddy reports the price for a gallon of gas in the Wausau area today ranges from $2.79 per gallon to $2.92. That’s lower than the national average of $3.03 per gallon.

Exacerbating the price spike is the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline just weeks ahead of the busy travel season, GasBuddy reports. The pipeline delivers 45 percent of the gasoline supply to the Southeast and was shut down for six days causing massive panic and fuel shortages. But the national average has since stabilized.

After a week of pump price spikes, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has held steady at $3.04 for six days, following the ransomware attack that halted Colonial Pipeline operations and limited delivery of gasoline along the East Coast and Southeast. 

“The numbers are clear: people are itching to travel as the nation recovers from Covid-19 but are frustrated with some of the highest holiday weekend gas prices in quite some time,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Gas prices have been increasing for months due to the continued rise in gasoline demand as a myriad of destinations reopen ahead of the summer driving season.”

The Colonial Pipeline shutdown only highlighted how much more reliant consumers have become on gasoline since the pandemic hit, De Haan said.

But there is an end in sight – at least temporarily.

Prices should ease up ahead of the holiday, mainly in areas where the pipeline challenges were most severe, De Haan said. But prices are expected to rebound and inch back up as we approach midsummer.

Forty-six percent surveyed say that high gas prices are directly impacting their travel plans compared to only 4 percent saying so in 2020.