Florida gas prices up the most in the nation. Retailers, storm to blame?

Florida's gas prices rose the most in the nation this week.

Florida’s gas prices rose the most in the nation this week.

Florida’s average gasoline price rose 11 cents this past week, the largest increase in the nation. Gasoline retailers could be the culprit, AAA said Monday.

As Tropical Storm Colin  moves across the Gulf of Mexico, there’s even more potential for gas prices to rise. The  National Hurricane Center expects the storm to make landfall this afternoon in the Big Bend area.

Attorney General Pam Bondi Monday activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for consumers in multiple Florida counties. The opening of the hotline comes as Governor Rick Scott declares a state of emergency in 34 counties in preparation for the impact of Tropical Storm Colin. Florida’s price gouging law only applies within the area of the declared state of emergency.

“Minimal increases at the pump were understandable, because of increased holiday demand and delayed reaction to rising crude prices, but the dramatic increases seen in Florida came as a surprise,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.

In contrast, the national average rose 4 cents a gallon. State averages rose 1 cent in Georgia and 4 cents in Tennessee.

Florida’s average increased to $2.36 a gallon from $2.25 a week ago, while Palm Beach County’s rose to $2.45 from $2.39 week ago, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report.

“Basic fundamentals didn’t change. There have been no reports of supply shortages, and oil and wholesale prices held relatively steady last week,” Jenkins said. “When spikes like this happen, gasoline retailers are often the culprit. All it takes is one company to raise prices in an effort to increase profits, then other retailers join in, and causing a domino effect of rising prices.

“Gasoline retailers may be seeing the potential to profit as Americans are driving at record levels. The current break-even point is around $2.07 to $2.10 per gallon, and prices are well above that,” Jenkins said.

Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said some states saw greater volatility in gas prices resulting from regional refinery setbacks and/or wholesale fuel spikes. Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan saw their averages increase from 5 to 10 cents a gallon.

Florida’s leap in gas prices mid-week was due to a spike in Gulf Coast wholesale fuel prices, Laskoski said.

The average weekly price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil averaged $48.98 last week, which was only four cents higher than the week before, AAA said. But it was the highest weekly average price for crude  since July 24, 2015.

“Florida gasoline is predominantly imported by tanker ships from refineries in Louisiana and Texas. If the storm leads to fuel shipment delays, prices at the pump could increase,” Jenkins said.





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