It’s summer and Arizona gas prices sizzle to third-highest in country

May 14, 2023, 6:30 AM

(Photo by Alexandra Aley/Cronkite News)...

(Photo by Alexandra Aley/Cronkite News)

(Photo by Alexandra Aley/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – If you thought the jump in gas prices this spring was bad, just wait until your summer vacation days. The pumps are coming for your bank accounts – perhaps putting that road trip to Disneyland on pause.

Arizona’s average price for regular gas has been third-highest in the country for at least the last month, trailing only California and Hawaii, data from the AAA gas calculator shows.

While the current average price of $4.68 for a gallon of regular in Arizona is a welcome break from the all-time high of $5.38 that was recorded in the state last summer, it’s still $1.14 more than the national average of $3.54 as of Thursday, the calculator shows. Summer is headed our way. Are we going to have to switch to biking and scootering around the city? Maybe dust off the rollerblades sitting in the garage?

Here’s the why and the what of gas prices:

Spring maintenance for refineries, oil supplies is to blame

Julian Paredes, a spokesperson for AAA Mountain West, said that the biggest driver of gas prices increasing is the fact that two refineries in New Mexico and Texas both went down for spring maintenance, hurting the supply that goes to Arizona. He added that this can happen every few years, but it is pretty rare that both refineries go down for maintenance at the same time. “That really hurt the supply side regionally,” he said.

But it is not just the refineries to blame. Another factor affecting supply is the oil market. OPEC, a group of the top producing oil companies in the world, recently cut the supply of oil, raising prices around the world. “Between those two things, the Arizona gas market was hit really hard,” Paredes said.

Big cities mean big costs for motorists

While prices are high across the state, Maricopa and Pima County are more impacted than others.

“Maricopa County gets its gas from California, so the prices are usually higher in Phoenix,” Paredes explained. Pima County, on the other hand, gets its gas from Texas, making the prices “traditionally a lot cheaper.” But due to the refinery issues, “gas prices in Maricopa County and Pima County are almost identical, so that’s probably a big shock to people in Pima County.”

Prices might, just might, drop

Paredes said there is some good news: “The national gas prices have actually been going down for about a week … and the oil market has actually stabilized recently.”

He said that if everything goes as planned and the refineries do come back, typically before Memorial Day, the oil market and gas market in Arizona could “go down or at least settle down.”

But don’t get your hopes up.

“It’s really hard to say because typically summers are when demand for gas goes up anyway,” he said.

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It’s summer and Arizona gas prices sizzle to third-highest in country