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While the price of bread, milk, and other daily necessities remains fairly consistent, gas prices often seem quite illogical. However, it’s not the gas station owner who is determining the price you pay at the pump. Over 85 percent of the price of gasoline is determined before it even arrives at the station.
As you might expect, supply and demand is one of the key factors that causes gas prices to rise. During the summer, when drivers typically plan vacations, the price of gas goes up. Prices also rise briefly around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays where people are expected to travel in order to see family and friends. Public fears about a gasoline shortage, such as what happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, can drive up prices even further.
Gasoline is made from crude oil, so it seems only logical that the price of oil has a significant impact on the price you pay at the pump. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, otherwise known as OPEC, controls over 40 percent of the world’s oil production and approximately 65 percent of the planet’s oil reserves. As the market leader, OPEC is free to essentially set its own price for crude oil. As a result, there is no significant competition to drive gas prices down.
Turning crude oil into gasoline is a complicated process. Unfortunately, the number of refineries in the United States has greatly decreased in recent years. When combined with a growing demand for gasoline, this results in an overall increase in gas prices. Sudden spikes are often the result of a refinery’s mechanical troubles, downtime, or production delays.
If you live in a metropolitan area that mandates the use of clean air fuels, you may be surprised to learn that these fuels can also raise gas prices. While it’s true that clean air fuels reduce pollution and help protect our planet’s natural resources, distributing this special gasoline presents a number of logistical challenges for the manufacturer. These costs are then passed along to drivers at the pump.
Since there are a number of factors that affect the price of gasoline, finding cheap gas prices can be quite difficult. Driving around your town to find the gas station that will save you a few pennies is simply not a practical choice. If you’re truly concerned about high gas prices, the best course of action is to make an effort to reduce your consumption. Keep your vehicle well-maintained to avoid using more gas than necessary and consider making your next purchase a more fuel-efficient vehicle. You can also consolidate your errands to eliminate unnecessary trips, carpool with a friend, walk or bike to your destination when the weather permits, and take public transportation whenever possible.