PORTLAND, Ore. -

After rising for 36 consecutive days, the national average fell for three straight days before rising again overnight, AAA Oregon/Idaho reported Tuesday.

For the week, the national average gains three cents to $3.78 while Oregon’s average adds nine cents to $3.73. 

"For the fifth week in a row, the Oregon average remains below the national average,” says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds.  “The national average has surged 43 1/2 cents in the last month and is at its highest level since mid-October.  The Oregon average has jumped 39 cents in the last month and is at its highest point since early November.”

Still, Dodds noted, “Prices in the Pacific Northwest are lower than in many other parts of the country."

For the 15th week in a row, Oregon and Washington are out of the top 10 most expensive states for gasoline.  Washington is 29th-most expensive, Oregon is 30th, and Idaho is 48th, Dodds adds.

The national average is the highest on record for this calendar day, rising above the previous record of $3.70 set a year ago.  The Oregon average is 16 cents less than it was a year ago.

The 36-day streak of increases for the national average is the longest in nearly two years. 

This surge in retail prices has only been driven somewhat by rising crude oil prices, Dodds said.  Refinery maintenance and issues have had a greater impact.  This has led to less gasoline being produced and tighter supplies, which have pushed pump prices higher.

Prices in 47 states (including Oregon) and Washington, D.C. have increased over the last week.  Drivers in just three states (Ohio, Indiana and Michigan) have seen prices decline in the last week.   Hawaii, California, New York and the District of Columbia now have statewide averages at or above $4 a gallon.

This year’s refinery maintenance schedule and switch-over to summer-blend gasoline production appears to be more dramatic than recent years and is taking place earlier than in 2012, AAA reported.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that during the previous week, U.S. refineries had processed crude oil at the lowest rate (14.42 million barrels per day) since April 8, 2011.

While gasoline output was also lower versus a year ago, the decline was not as dramatic. This may be because refineries are processing an increased amount of shale oil, which yields more gasoline per barrel than other crude products.

Global demand continues to keep upward pressure on gas prices, despite unremarkable domestic demand due to a still-recovering economy, high unemployment and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.

In particular, China (the second largest oil-consumer after the U.S.) saw crude oil demand hit a record high of 10.62 million barrels per day in January, which is up ten percent from the same month in 2012.

AAA expects that gas price hikes will slow as temporary production concerns are addressed. Based on this expectation, the national average is likely to peak this spring at a lower price than in the last couple years. 

In 2011, the national average peaked at $3.98 on May 5 and in 2012, it peaked at $3.94 on April 5 and 6.  The Oregon average peaked at $3.97 on May 6 in 2011 and $4.27 on June 1 in 2012.

Crude oil prices have moved lower in the last week as increased crude oil inventories and bearish economic news weighed on markets.  This includes declines for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude of $2.20 per barrel last Wednesday and $2.38 on Thursday to a new 2013 low of $92.84, before recovering back above $93 to end the week.

At the close of formal trading Monday on the NYMEX, WTI prices settled $93.11 down 2 cents per barrel.  Today, crude is trading around $92 per barrel.  WTI prices are down about four percent in the last month.

National Average (Regular)                                           Highest Recorded Avg. Price                Date

Current             $3.782                                      Regular Unleaded:  $4.114                    7/17/08

Month Ago                   $3.347

Year Ago                      $3.698                                                             

                                                                       

                                                                                                                                    Highest Rec.

                                   Current           Week Ago          Month Ago       Year Ago          Avg.  Price        Date