The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Minnesota jumped three cents to $3.28 overnight, and the upward trend is something we can expect to see through spring, AAA says.
Gas in the Twin Cities metro area and St. Cloud was averaging $3.30 per gallon Wednesday morning. In Duluth, drivers were paying an average of $3.27 while those in Rochester shelled out $3.26, according to the motoring club's Daily Fuel Gauge Report survey of gas stations.
The national average was $3.31 Wednesday, but that could rise to between $3.55 and $3.75 in coming months, said Bob Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA.
"Winter weather, weak demand and sufficient supplies have kept gas prices relatively low recently, but this trend may not last longer," he said. "Driving to the gas station could be a lot more frustrating as prices increase this spring."
Darbelnet said prices generally increase in the spring as refineries cut production to conduct seasonal maintenance and to prepare for the mandated switchover to summer-grade fuel. Last year a gallon of gas shot up 49 cents over a six-week period, peaking at $3.79 on Feb. 27. The rise might not be quite as sharp this year.
"There is a good chance that average gasoline prices this year will cost less than in 2013, but it is not going to be cheap," Darbelnet said. "The expected springtime rise in gas prices likely will be temporary, but that will not make it any easier to pay $60 or more to fill up your car."
Darbelnet predicts that prices will drop slightly once maintenance work and the switchover is complete. Barring unforeseen circumstances or a big spike in demand, which can happen during the summer, the national average could be between $3.30 and $3.40 by June.
Prices are expected to be the lowest along the Gulf Coast and in the central United States thanks to lower taxes and abundant supplies of cheaper North American crude oil. Prices could drop below $3 a gallon in some areas before the year is out, Darbelnet said.
Drivers in the Northeast and West Coast will be dealing with more expensive gas. Local refineries often rely on costlier imported oil and gasoline, and the regions also have higher gas taxes.