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Gas prices climb along eclipse path of totality

Peak summer demand seen at the pump

PORTLAND, Ore. - Gas prices are climbing in locations along the path of totality of next Monday’s total solar eclipse. Demand for gasoline has already been very robust, due to a healthy summer travel season. Add about a million eclipse viewers in Oregon and 500,000 in Idaho, and that creates even more demand for fuel.

"For the week, the national average for regular unleaded remains at $2.35 a gallon. Oregon’s average climbs three cents to $2.72 and Idaho’s average leaps eight cents to $2.66, which is the biggest weekly jump in the nation,” says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds. “The eclipse on August 21 and the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend will likely lead to some of the highest prices at the pump this year.”

OR local-national 8-15-17

Oregon is one of 29 states where gas prices increased in the last week. The largest weekly increases are in Idaho (+8 cents) and Utah (+7 cents). Delaware has the largest weekly drop (-5 cents).

Oregon is one of 49 states and the District of Columbia to see pump prices rise in the last month. The largest monthly increase is in Florida (+13 cents). Arizona is the only state where prices are flat month-over-month. The national average is 10 cents more and the Oregon average is five cents more than a month ago.

The West Coast continues to have the highest gas prices in the country. Hawaii remains the only state with an average at or above $3. California, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada round out the top seven most expensive states. Oregon is fifth most expensive for the seventh week in a row.

Rank Region Price on 8/15/2017
1 Hawaii $3.08
2 California $2.98
3 Washington $2.85
4 Alaska $2.82
5 Oregon $2.72
6 Idaho $2.66
7 Nevada $2.64
8 District of Columbia $2.57
9 Pennsylvania $2.56
10 Utah $2.54

West Coast gasoline inventories dropped moderately on the week (200,000 bbl) as supplies tighten. Total inventory registers at 26.5 million bbl, which is the lowest levels seen on the West Coast in 2017 and two million bbl behind a year ago. Imports painted a bleak picture on the week; totaling 119,000 bbl compared the 375,000 bbl the week prior and below the year-ago level of 161,000 bbl. Tight supplies plus the huge rise in the number of visitors for the eclipse will inevitably drive up demand for fuel and prices.

The nation’s cheapest markets are South Carolina ($2.08) and Alabama ($2.10). For the third week in a row, there are no states with an average below $2.

Drivers are paying more to fill up compared to one year ago. The national average is currently 23 cents per gallon more and the Oregon average is 28 cents more than a year ago.

Oil Market Dynamics

Crude oil prices started this week falling 2.5 percent to their lowest close in three weeks. Investors are concerned about growing supplies from non-OPEC producers and that U.S. production will continue to add to the global crude glut. According to Baker Hughes, Inc. three oil rigs were added to the U.S. count last week, totaling 768, which is 372 rigs more than last year’s count at this time. At the same time, crude inventories have declined by more than 33 million bbl for seven consecutive weeks. The current crude oil storage level of 475.4 million bbl is the lowest since early October, and total inventories, when compared to the five-year average, have moved lower to just over 66 million bbl. The shrinking inventories have given the market greater confidence, but the growing rig count indicates that oil companies are still investing heavily in U.S. production.

Also, the U.S. Energy Information Administration last week published a report that pointed to a revised record gasoline demand at 9.842 million b/d for the week ended on July 28. The demand for the week ending August 4 noted a small pullback, but overall the last four weeks of gasoline demand have been on par with that of a year ago. The final monthly numbers for April and May pointed to record highs and final readings for June and July are likely to follow suit, confirming gasoline production by U.S. refiners and blenders has been running near record levels for the first seven months of 2017.

With strong gasoline production levels and seasonal demand staying on track, drivers will likely see prices continue to climb across the country. In fact, as OPEC seeks to re-double its efforts to rebalance the global oil market, any additional steps from it to curb growth in production may lead to higher oil prices. At a meeting in Abu Dhabi last week with OPEC and non-OPEC producers – all members of a pact that has agreed to cut production by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until March 2018 – the group decided to take action, including curtailing exports, to comply more fully with the agreement. If those measures meet full success, higher pump prices will likely follow.

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI increased 23 cents to settle at $48.82. At the close of Monday’s session, WTI fell $1.23 cents to close at $47.59. Today crude is trading around $47, compared to $49 a week ago. Crude prices are up about three percent in the last month and are about $8 per barrel higher than a year ago.

Drivers can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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The first total eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979 is just days away and it all begins in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Oregon State Police, AAA Oregon/Idaho and many other agencies have been gearing up for an onslaught of visitors. About a million people will be in the path of totality in Oregon and about 500,000 in Idaho.

Emergency responders warn that they might not be able to reach everyone who needs assistance in a timely manner. So it’s important for travelers to be prepared in case they get stranded.

“Traffic gridlock is a major concern as many places along the eclipse’s path of totality in Oregon and Idaho are only accessible by two-lane highways. Factor in a crash or a wild fire and travelers could be stuck for hours,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Even under the best circumstances, count on congestion.”

AAA has this advice for eclipse watchers:

Expect heavy traffic in the days leading up to and after the eclipse on August 21. If you’re driving to your eclipse viewing destination, leave a day or two early and plan to come home a day or two after the eclipse. Hotels and campsites have been booked for months if not years, but you may be able to stay with a friend or find a place to park a trailer or RV. For example, Oregon State University is allowing people to park on campus on the day of the eclipse. Rest areas in Oregon are gearing up with extra staff and supplies, but staying longer than 12 hours in rest areas is not allowed.

Keep your gas tank at least half full. Smaller communities could experience fuel and/or food shortages. “You don’t want to be running on empty if you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic because you’ll likely run out of gas,” says Dodds. Don’t carry extra gasoline—it’s flammable and could explode. It can also emit dangerous fumes. And with the surge in demand for gasoline and diesel, expect pump prices to climb before and after the eclipse. Use the AAA Mobile App to find the cheapest gas prices in your area.

Pack water and non-perishable food for all passengers and pets. Bring enough such supplies to last at least a couple days because emergency responders are all concerned about being able to quickly respond to those who need help.

Don’t leave home without an emergency kit in your car. Besides food and water, bring your mobile phone and charger (there are several hand-cranked chargers available that don’t rely on your car’s battery), flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, a basic toolkit with tire pressure gauge and adjustable wrench, windshield washer solution, jumper cables and emergency flares or reflectors. “Carrying the basics will help if you encounter trouble. Being able to jump start a dead battery or treat a passenger with a minor cut or scrape will provide peace of mind,” says Dodds.

If you’re stuck in traffic during the eclipse, don’t pull over to watch. It’s against the law to stop or park on the shoulder of interstates and highways. Oregon State Police worry about crashes occurring and people getting hurt if motorists try to pull over in droves. ODOT even warns people not to drive with eclipse glasses on because they can hamper your visibility.

Drive with your headlights on. It’ll improve your forward vision and make you more noticeable to other drivers.

Watch for other drivers who may be distracted by the eclipse and look out for pedestrians! Expect people standing in or along the roadway watching the eclipse. Be alert to the possibility of distracted drivers swerving into your lane. Drive more slowly than usual so you’ll have more time to make an emergency maneuver if needed.

Know where to go for current information:

  • An eclipse hotline runs August 16-23 with the latest information from local, state and federal agencies in one spot. Dial 211 or visit 211info.org.
  • Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has released a central location for their Eclipse info: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Pages/Eclipse.aspx
  • Live updates and traffic cams from ODOT can be found here: https://www.tripcheck.com
  • Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) also has eclipse information including specific spots to view, local traffic, and more. Find out more here: http://itd.idaho.gov/eclipse/
  • More information about the eclipse including safe viewing recommendations can be found on NASA’s site here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-101
  • AAA Oregon/Idaho’s news releases on the eclipse can be found here.

AAA members needing help can call 1-800-AAA-Help (800-222-4357), or use the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and find the cheapest gas prices near you. AAA.com/mobile.

Watch the eclipse safely. The only safe way to look directly at the eclipse is to wear special glasses that are verified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. Many who ordered their eclipse glasses from Amazon learned that the online retailer issued a widespread recall a few days ago saying the glasses may not comply with industry standards. Visit NASA and AAS (American Astronomical Society) for more information about safely watching the solar eclipse.


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