With the summer driver season fast approaching, motorists are being cautioned to fill up now before prices skyrocket as refineries switch to a more expensive, more eco-friendly blend of fuel.
While many motorists have enjoyed relief at the pump during the winter - the average price per gallon nationally is $2.39; $2.48 in New York as of last week - prices are expected to rise as much as 70 cents per gallon, peaking after the busy Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA.
AAA New York Spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr. said that as refineries begin making the switch toward the end of March and beginning of April, motorists will continue to see prices rise at the pump. Nationally, the average price per gallon has gone up approximately eight cents in the past week, and prices in New York are up nearly 30 cents from a year ago.
"The more complicated formulas for gas used during the summer and distribution involved in different markets makes it more expensive, and we've definitely seen prices go up. Those prices are firmly taking hold as we make the switch, and this is only the beginning," he added. "Come Memorial Day, when people start taking their summer driving vacations, demands will once again cause the price to go up."
According to the Clean Air Act of 1990, refineries must use cleaner burning blends during the summer, because the heat creates problems involving volatile organic compounds in the gasoline. The summer blend of fuel has many heavy metals removed, detergents added and has a lower vapor pressure.
"All of these extra things that refineries have to do (during the summer) make it more complicated to refine, and it becomes more complicated to distribute," Sinclair said. "As the demand continues to rise, so too will prices."
Sinclair noted that national and international politics have had a minimal impact on the average price per gallon, but said that after the missile strike on Syria last week, crude oil prices saw a tick of an increase in price.
"There was a bump in crude oil by about 50 or 60 cents per barrel, because there was no real impact on production or transportation," he said. "It was just the fear that something could happen and things could escalate or lead to a disruption to supply in the region that makes the price go up."