Patrick DeHaan says the statewide average in Illinois is $3.96, which is about 50 cents higher than this time last year. In Jacksonville, the price of a gallon of unleaded is $3.79, which is an 84-cent jump from mid-December.
DeHaan says the big reason for the jump in prices has been because of speculative money flowing back into oil again. While he says that’s a sign of an improving economy, he notes that it doesn’t benefit those in Jacksonville who are still struggling financially.
“For gas prices to go up right now, certainly very untimely for those individuals still without jobs. The economy as a whole, just because it has improved slightly over a few years ago doesn’t mean that we’re ready for higher gas prices,” says DeHaan.
“But be that as it may, demand for gasoline is up, according to the Energy Information Administration. Last week, gasoline demand was up five percent over the year-ago period. Whether that be because more people are driving to or from work or more people are buying vehicles remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that investors and speculators are pouring into the market, and that’s, I think, a big reason behind the higher prices.”
DeHaan adds there have been some refinery issues that, when put together, have caused prices to spike a bit. Specifically, he says there have been problems at the Conoco Phillips plant in Wood River, the Exxon Mobil facility in Joliet, and the CITGO refinery in Lamont.
DeHaan says over the last several years, the trend in gas prices has usually been that they jump the most in April and May, and then drop during the Memorial Day weekend. He says the current rise in prices might be the same rally just happening earlier.
“I am hopeful that we won’t see a double whammy with another increase down the road, but it’s hard to tell. It’s looking fairly likely, at least, at this point that Jacksonville prices may tip four dollars a gallon here in the months ahead. I only say that because we’re only in the month of February, and prices are already just twenty cents away from that level. So, it appears probable,” he says.
“But on the other hand, if this is the rally that we normally see just a few months early, it could be running out of steam. In fact, Friday, oil prices took a bit of a breather, their first in about a week and a half. So, that’s good news,” adds DeHaan.
Jacksonville has come close on several occasions, but hasn’t seen gas above $4 per gallon since May 2011. Since then, it has mainly remained in the $3-per-gallon range.
The national average gas price is $3.75. That’s 45 cents higher than a month ago.