WASHINGTON - According to the AAA, crude oil prices and, consequently, gasoline prices edged higher due, in part, to the ongoing Euro Zone debt concerns and geopolitical tensions with Iran.
The news that Greece was nearing an austerity deal last week was seen as bullish for the Euro Zone economy as a whole and was a primary driving force for higher oil prices on the week, according to AAA.
The effect on U.S. gasoline prices have varied due to a number of factors. Areas in the center of the country that use gasoline from refineries with access to the relatively cheaper crude products have seen prices hold steady or even move lower in recent weeks, while areas having to rely on refiners using more expensive products have seen prices move higher. States like Ohio and Michigan have seen prices fall by 18 and 17 cents respectively over the last month, at the same time states like Connecticut and North Carolina have seen prices rise by these same respective amounts.
Also impacting prices is the fact that refiners - especially those processing more expensive crude products - have responded to dismal demand for gasoline nationwide by planning production decreases, resulting in upward pressure on prices paid by motorists. According to a Department of Energy report issued in early February, gasoline demand for the four weeks prior averaged 18.12 million barrels per day - the lowest level since April 25, 1997.
At a national level, the price of gasoline at the pump has continued to rise. The national retail average for mid-February for a gallon of self-serve, regular gasoline was $3.51. That was 3 cents more than the week prior, 12 cents more than one month prior to that, and 38 cents more expensive than the same time in 2011.