This story was updated Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, at 6:53 p.m. with more information.
The average price of gas in Chattanooga has risen above $3 a gallon for the first time in more than seven years.
Chattanooga gas prices rose an average 12.2 cents a gallon in the past week to an average $3.07 per gallon for regular fuel — the highest price since 2014, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 170 stations in Chattanooga.
"I don't understand why we are the No. 2 producer of oil in the world and we're having to pay this much for a gallon of gas," Chattanooga motorist Kenny Shrum said Monday as he was buying gas at the East Ridge Mapco station, one of the few still selling regular gas below $3 a gallon. "I don't like it because it not only cost me more to fill my car, it also tends to limit what people tip at our restaurant. But I know there's not much I can do about it."
Gas prices in Chattanooga have jumped nearly 68% from the average of $1.83 per gallon local that motorists paid for fuel a year ago, adding $18.75 to the cost of filling up a typical 15-gallon tank. For those filling up once a week, the higher prices are increasing their annual gas expenses by more than $950 compared to the relatively low price of gas a year ago when the pandemic cut most travel.
"The price of oil continues to drag gas prices along for the wild ride, leaving motorists on empty," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "With OPEC holding back oil production and strong global oil demand, the situation will no doubt pave the road with even higher gas prices in the weeks ahead."
Oil prices pulled back Monday after initially hitting multi-year highs. On the Brent benchmark, crude oil futures were down 62 cents, or 0.7%, at $82.26 per barrel after briefly rising Monday morning to more than $86 a barrel — the highest since October 2018.
Chattanooga motorists enjoy a 13-cents-per-gallon advantage in gas prices compared with the U.S. average price of $3.30 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com. Chattanooga fuel prices also average 3 cents a gallon below the statewide average of $3.09 a gallon, Gasbuddy.com said.
But that advantage was little solace for Tori Perdue, a Dalton, Georgia, resident who travels most days to East Ridge to visit her mother.
"It's very costly to get around, especially since we're down to only one vehicle," she said of her Ford F150 pickup.
The cheapest gas in Hamilton County on Monday was at a Valero station in East Ridge, where regular gas was selling for $2.79 a gallon. But most stations moved their gas prices above $3 a gallon over the past couple of weeks and Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said he expects prices at the pump to go even higher in coming weeks.
For mid-October, Chattanooga gas prices are the highest they have been since 2013, when regular fuel on Oct. 18 was priced at $3.10 a gallon. On this date in 2012, regular gas in Chattanooga averaged $3.43 a gallon.
After a decade of improved vehicle mileage and higher domestic output, the supply and demand for gasoline is once again pushing up prices as motorists are driving more again after the pandemic and OPEC and other suppliers are not boosting production in line with the higher demand.
"Until several bottlenecks ease, including supply chains and low global inventories of oil, natural gas and coal, we'll be stuck feeling the pinch of rising oil and gasoline prices," DeHaan said. "The bad news is that for now, all I see is the upward trend at the pump continuing into the weeks ahead with no sign of relief just yet."
Higher fuel prices also will boost the cost of home heating this winter, although the increases for most Chattanooga homeowners will be far less than the national average.
With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas and other fuels, the U.S. government said last week it expects households to see their heating bills jump as much as 54% compared to last winter.
Nearly half the homes in the U.S. use natural gas for heat, and they could pay 30% more than a year ago.
Most homes in the Tennessee Valley are heated by electricity, and the Tennesssee Valley Authority and most of its 153 local power companies are keeping their base rates stable through the winter. But monthly electric bills are adjusted to reflect fuel expenses, and the monthly fuel cost adjustment next month will boost EPB residential rates another 1.8% from their current levels and push power prices in November up by 6.5% from a year ago, according to EPB.
The typical Chattanooga household that uses 1,295 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will pay $132.08 next month, up $7.88 from what that household would have paid a year earlier for the same power.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 423-757-6340.