After declining by more than 30 cents a gallon during February, gasoline prices in Chattanooga reversed their downward trend and rose by an average of 7.3 cents a gallon over the past week, according to the online gasoline pricing service GasBuddy.com.
Experts said Monday the increase in gas prices could continue as the spring driving season boosts fuel demand and refineries switch to cleaner, more expensive summer brands.
"While we may not see weekly increases, the overall trend will remain upward through much of the spring," Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, predicted in a report released Monday. "By Memorial Day, most of the nation will be transitioned to their respective required blend of fuel, and gas prices could ease, but a $4 per gallon national average remains possible by then."
For now, Chattanooga gas prices remain below both the U.S. average and the year-ago levels. Among 170 gas stations in the Chattanooga area surveyed by GasBuddy.com, the average price of regular unleaded at the start of this week was $2.97 a gallon, or 84 cents a gallon below the same time a year ago and more than $1.50 a gallon below the peak prices for gas reached in June.
Chattanooga gas prices average $2.97 a gallon, or 39 cents a gallon below the U.S. average price of $3.36 a gallon, GasBudy.com said Monday.
The cheapest gas in the Chattanooga area at the start of the week was at the Food City Gas 'N Go in Ooltewah, which is selling regular gasoline for $2.75 a gallon.
While gasoline is getting more expensive for most motorists, truckers and others relying upon diesel fuel are finally getting a price reprieve this year. The national average price of diesel has fallen 4.6 cents in the past week and stands at $4.34 per gallon.
Last week marked the first time in more than two years that average diesel prices in the U.S. was below the year-ago levels, according to GasBuddy.
Diesel prices have declined nearly $1.50 per gallon since reaching record levels last spring and now stand at an average of $4.35 per gallon, the lowest level since the days immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"Diesel's decline has been astounding -- we've seen improvements in fundamentals over the last few months with diesel prices down nearly $1 per gallon in the last 100 days, thanks in part due to the Fed raising interest rates, throttling back the economy, as well as Mother Nature reducing consumption through a mild winter and curbing consumption of diesel's cousin, heating oil," De Haan said. "Coming out of winter, we'll continue to see diesel prices decline. Barring an unexpected disruption or escalation in global events, diesel prices this summer could be $2 per gallon lower than last summer, which is certainly good news for the economy and transportation sectors stung by the previously high costs of diesel fuel."
A separate survey released Monday by AAA showed the statewide average price of regular gas in Tennessee also rose in the past week by 3 cents a gallon to $3.04 a gallon. Despite the weekly increase, gas prices are still 15 cents a gallon less expensive than one month ago across all of Tennessee and the statewide average price is down 77 cents a gallon from a year ago.
"This past week we experienced fluctuation in our gas prices across the state, and it's likely that we'll continue to see this fluctuation throughout the spring driving season," said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman, AAA - The Auto Club Group, in a news release. "Warmer weather is encouraging people to travel, which increases demand for gasoline. It's also very common this time of year to see fluctuating gas prices as this is the time of year when refineries conduct seasonal maintenance and begin the process of producing summer-blend gasoline, which is more expensive to produce than winter-blend gasoline."
Oil prices edged slightly higher in trading on global exchanges on Monday, bouncing back from early losses.
Brent crude futures were trading up 35 cents, or 0.4% at $86.18 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 78 cents, or 1%, at $80.46.
Oil was supported by top crude exporter Saudi Arabia raising prices for the flagship Arab light crude it sells to Asia for a second month in April, as well as a weaker dollar.