NEW YORK >> Gasoline is near the highest it’s ever been for this time of year, just ahead of the Labor Day weekend.
The run-up in oil prices this year, combined with a rash of refining problems throughout the U.S., has boosted pump prices. The national average on Thursday is $3.629 per gallon. Drivers will pay more for gasoline this Sept. 1 than in any other year except 2008, when pump prices hit an average of $3.686.
Hawaii is also seeing a runup in pump prices ahead of the holiday weekend. Gas in Honolulu is just below $4 a gallon at $3.996 for a gallon of regular. That price is up a penny from Thursday and up 2 cents from last week. The statewide average is $4.11 a gallon for regular; also 1 cent higher than Thursday and 2 cents more than last week.
Retail gasoline prices are rising in the U.S. even though motorists are buying less. Analysts say they have been pushed higher by a steady rise in international gasoline demand. Americans may be using less, but drivers in developing nations are using more.
“It’s all part of being in a global market,” said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.
The U.S. is using so little gasoline now that it has been a net exporter of refined fuels to other countries for the past nine weeks. That’s typical for OPEC countries, but it’s extremely rare in the U.S. “You have to go back years and years,” Kloza said. “I haven’t found a time when we’ve been a net exporter for that many weeks.”
Most of those exports head to Mexico and Canada. The U.S. also sends fuel to dozens of other countries; including the Netherlands, Singapore, Japan, Ecuador, Panama, Chile and Colombia.
There are some indications that the national price of gas may trend down again. Oil prices fell to $86.30 today after a weak jobs report. The sagging jobs market raised concerns that the nation could slide back into recession and demand for oil and gasoline will decline.
Oil was also pushed down as the dollar rose against the euro and some other currencies. Oil is priced in dollars and becomes less attractive to buyers with foreign currency as the dollar get stronger.