All fueled up

Local area hit hardest, though statewide average slumping

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Cars drive past the Mobil station on Sharon Avenue Tuesday. Houghton and Keweenaw counties had the highest gas prices in the state, according to AAA figures released Tuesday.

HOUGHTON — Houghton and Keweenaw counties are dealing with the highest average fuel prices in the state, which are up to 60 cents higher than some other counties in the western Upper Peninsula.

AAA’s statewide survey Tuesday showed Keweenaw County at $3.999 for a gallon of regular gas, followed by Houghton at $3.923.

By comparison, Iron County is at $3.48, while Ontonagon County is at $3.419 and Gogebic is at $3.333.

AAA spokesperson Adrienne Woodland said prices can vary for several reasons, such as the availability of gasoline in the area, the number of stations and the level of demand in the area.

“When gas prices go up, it becomes more expensive to get the fuel to a certain location,” she said. “If you have to go further, it can certainly affect the price you pay. The retailer pays for that fuel, and it affects the price you pay at the pump.”

Most of the other highest counties in the state are concentrated in the northern Lower Peninsula or eastern Upper Peninsula. The next highest are Mackinac ($3.856) and Chippewa ($3.844).

Over the past few years, northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula tend to be higher than the southern half of the Upper Peninsula, Woodland said.

The biggest recent departure from that trend has been in the metro Detroit area, she said. It’s usually one of the three highest-priced meteor areas in the state, along with Marquette and Ann Arbor. Over the past 30 days, it’s had the lowest prices in the state, and the only metro area where prices are lower than the same time last year.

“I myself have been able to find gas for less than $3 in the metro Detroit area,” she said. “I have no idea why that has changed. Certainly, it’s a big area, and there’s a wide gap in terms of the prices.”

On a micro level, prices can be affected by location, Woodland said; gas stations near highways will be higher, or near attractions. A quarter-mile from her house, a station recently received new competition from one built across the street.

“I noticed immediately, the price was lower,” she said of the original station.

The statewide average is $3.397 per gallon, down from $3.599 a week ago and $4.228 a month ago. It’s also narrowing the gap with 2021. It’s 16 cents below the same point in 2021, versus prices earlier in the year that had been more than a dollar above 2021 levels.

Availability of gas, along with the price of crude oil and the demand for gas, are the main affecting gas prices on a large scale, Woodland said. Gasoline inventories around the country have rebounded after a series of maintenance issues at refineries around the country in September and October, capped by a refinery fire in Toledo, Ohio.

That refinery maintenance was completed around Thanksgiving at most locations, which increased the amount of gas available.

“We’ve got a good amount of gasoline stocks now, and that’s pushing prices down,” she said.

Aside from the Thanksgiving weekend, demand has held steady, Woodland said.

Global crude oil prices have been volatile this year, with multiple factors pushing the price up or down on a given day, Woodland said.

Crude oil futures have dropped below $80, as OPEC and other oil producers decided Sunday to continue reducing production by 2 million barrels of oil per day instead of escalating cuts.

“Right now, if we continue with higher gasoline stocks and steady demand, we could see pump prices continue to go down — that is if crude oil stays where it is, or continues to go lower,” Woodland said.


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