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Nuts & Bolts

August 7, 2012

Midwestern states skew national gas price average

Gasoline prices are headed up again, but maybe not as much as the statistics seem to suggest. Surging pump prices in five Midwestern states may be distorting the picture.

Last week motorists in Illinois and Indiana were shocked as gas prices jumped more than 40 cents a gallon almost overnight. There were similar price surges in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

While consumers fumed, industry analysts explained a pipeline rupture and equipment problems at three regional refineries were mostly responsible for the hike. While gas prices were rising in most states, the increases were nothing like these five states experienced.

On Sunday the average price of self-service regular was $4.05 a gallon in Illinois. That makes Illinois gasoline the second most expensive in the nation, behind Hawaii.

The price increase in these five Midwestern states has pushed the national average price of gas higher than it might have been otherwise. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey puts the national average price at $3.61 a gallon. That's up 12.5 cents a gallon in the last week.

Prices rising just about everywhere

While the affected Midwestern states have seen prices at the pump rise at an abnormally rapid rate, prices elsewhere are rising, just at a more moderate pace. States like South Carolina and Mississippi, where prices are lowest, have seen price hikes in the last week of about 13 cents a gallon.

But in expensive states like Oregon, the price hikes have been even slower. The state-wide average price in Oregon is up three cents in the last seven days. The average price in North Dakota hasn't budged in the last week.

Analysts say prices in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan should fall just as quickly as they went up. When, however, remains less certain. Prices generally begin going down after Labor Day.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.

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