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Gas prices soar; up 18 cents in a week

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 17. 2013 9:27PM
Hannah Boulanger pumps gas for a customer at Morin's Service Station, in Manchester, on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

The cost of hitting the road continues to grow higher with no signs indicating a turnaround is coming any time soon.

Gas prices have been going up almost on a daily basis, and the surge continued Wednesday with the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in New Hampshire came in at $3.647, according to AAA. The average on July 10 was $3.463 — increasing by more than 18 cents in just one week.

"A combination of factors including new refinery issues, continued tight supply and higher crude oil prices has propelled the price at the pump," said Pat Moody, spokesman for AAA Northern New England.

The recent turmoil and political uncertainty in Egypt pushed up the price of crude oil because of the country's proximity and control of the Suez Canal, a major shipping route that allows tankers to avoid having to navigate a long and costly route around Africa.

Other, more local factors have led to the pinch in supply while demand increases during the summer travel season.

Moody said refineries in Nova Scotia and Philadelphia have been experiencing production difficulties while another plant in New Jersey completes planned maintenance.

"Combine refinery issues with the unrest in Egypt and you've got the cost of gasoline on the rise," Moody said.

While New Hampshire remained slightly below the national average of $3.657, the price spike in the Granite State over the last week was greater by a few cents.

With so many variables leading to the higher prices, analysts say not to expect a quick recovery. The Northeast oil supply is also going to be affected for some time by the deadly train derailment in eastern Quebec on July 6. The train had 72 cars hauling oil, leading to massive explosions that decimated the resort town of Lac-Megantic and killed an estimated 50 people.

Investigators continue to search through the rubble for the remaining bodies amid the wreckage, and there is no timetable on repairs to the damage to the rail line, which has been shut down indefinitely.

According to the Department of Energy, U.S. inventories of crude oil fell by more than 20 million barrels over two weeks, the largest two-week drop in more than three decades. And as long as the price of crude remains high, drivers can expect to pay more after the refined product makes its way to the pumps.

As much as the price has jumped recently, the national average remains below the high mark of $3.79 on Feb. 27, 2013. And it is still well below the $4-plus per gallon people were paying in the summer of 2008.

Moody said drivers can keep their costs down several ways, one of which is to stick to the speed limit while rolling down the highway. Increased speed cuts into a car's efficiency, forcing it to use more fuel to save little time, Moody said.

Another recommendation from AAA is to focus on the road and avoid distractions like the phone or eating behind the wheel. Hitting the brakes repeatedly or having to swerve can add up on a long trip.

"There's a lot of demand," Moody said. "You need to find a way to reduce your consumption."

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