Sarasota gas prices poised for spike

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Gas prices are poised to jump this week in Southwest Florida amid rising tensions in the Middle East and a massive refinery fire in Philadelphia.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice market was $2.38 on Monday, AAA reported, down another 6 cents over the week for the lowest price since February.

But drivers could soon be paying higher prices.

“Florida drivers could see gas prices rise 5 to 10 cents this week, due to both domestic and international issues that caused oil prices to spike,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman at AAA in Tampa. “However, it’s unclear just how long this upward pressure will stick around, and whether things will worsen or get better this week. Even if the state average rises above $2.50, drivers would still be paying 20 cents per gallon less than this time last year.”

Several factors are in play: rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran after the downing of a U.S. drone last week; the fire at a Philadelphia refinery – the largest on the east coast – which could require supplies to be redirected from other regions; growing optimism over the possibility that the U.S. and China will reach an accord to end the ongoing trade dispute; and a bullish inventory report from the Energy Information Administration showing slight reductions to both crude supply and production.

Right now, local gas prices are 19 cents lower than a month ago and 25 cents below year-ago levels.

The Florida average was $2.43 on Monday, while the U.S. average was $2.66.

The statewide average has ranged from a low of $2.12 in January to a high of $2.80 in April.

The Punta Gorda metro area reported the cheapest gas in Florida, at $2.34. Panama City was the highest, at $2.58.

Pump prices at stations in the Sarasota area ranged from $2.14 to $2.69 per gallon, according to GasBuddy reports.

Gas prices nationwide have fallen for seven consecutive weeks, but that streak is in danger, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

“Oil prices have rebounded notably due to increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran and attacks in the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway which sees over 20% of global oil supply traversing through the waterway,” he said. “Whether the upcoming and likely rebound in gasoline prices sticks for long is unknown, but if tempers continue to flare between the two countries, motorists may fall victim to the rocky relationship in the form of higher gas prices.”

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