Washington state gas prices up 22 cents in 1 week

Herald News Services

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Washington has climbed to $3.86 — up 22 cents in a week and 37 cents in a month, and 16 cents higher than the national average, the AAA driving club reported Monday.

AAA’s survey pegged the average gas price at $3.96 in the Everett-Seattle area.

High gas prices in the state have been blamed in part on fire damage that knocked the BP Cherry Point refinery out of service. The longer the refinery in Whatcom County is inactive, the higher gasoline prices will go, said Tim Hamilton, executive director of the Automotive United Trades Organization, an association of independent dealers, last week.

On the national scene, oil prices took a breather Monday, falling slightly as investors booked some profits after a seven-day surge. Retail gasoline prices continued to climb, adding five cents over the weekend for a national average of $3.70 per gallon.

Benchmark crude fell by $1.21 to end the day at $108.56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil that’s imported by U.S. refineries, lost $1.30 to finish at $124.17 per barrel in London.

Analysts say a standoff between the West and Iran over its nuclear program continues to keep oil prices around nine-month highs. But some traders sold contracts to lock in profits following a 9 percent rise since Valentine’s Day.

“Some people are getting out now just because oil is at those high levels,” PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn said.

The national average of $3.70 is the highest ever for this time of year. Drivers are paying an average of $4.29 per gallon in California. The price is above $4 per gallon in Alaska and Hawaii, and it’s about $3.95 per gallon in Connecticut and New York.

In some isolated cases around the country, gas is already going for more than $5 a gallon.

The Oil Price Information Service said that pump prices should increase by another 5 to 10 cents in coming days to reflect price hikes last week in wholesale markets. The national average could hit $4.25 a gallon by late April, OPIS chief oil analyst Tom Kloza said.