Gas prices hold steady as Middle East tensions rise

Gas prices in Oakton in late August

Gas prices in Oakton in late August

Labor Day marked the end of the summer driving season with the fourth highest Labor Day price on record.  The national average price for regular unleaded gasoline was $3.58 per gallon Friday, up a penny from a week ago, yet three cents less than a month ago and 30 cents less than a year ago.

While oil prices remain at lofty levels due to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, retail gas prices have not moved markedly higher during this period.  Upward pressure from higher oil prices have been largely offset by comfortable domestic gasoline supplies, demand that has lagged a year ago, and an Atlantic hurricane season that has, thus far, been very weak (for the first time in more than ten years there has been no Atlantic hurricane through the end of August and it is possible that this year may mark the latest date in the satellite era for a first hurricane to form).

With this in mind, the potential remains for higher retail prices in the coming weeks and months should storms impact gasoline production and distribution.

“Gasoline prices usually drop with the end of the summer driving season, but it is impossible to say whether this will be a typical year given the potential risks facing the market,” said John B. Townsend, Manager of Public and Government Affairs AAA Mid-Atlantic.  â€œEscalating tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, possible U.S. action in Syria or a major hurricane could make it more expensive to buy gas, while a relatively calm month should send prices much lower. It is too soon to know how these factors might affect motorists in the coming weeks.”


Regular Unleaded Gasoline (*indicates record high)


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Washington, DC




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Crude Oil

$110.53 per barrel (at Friday’s close)


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Oil prices remain elevated as tensions in the Middle East and North Africa have escalated and the U.S. publicly considers military action in Syria.  Though Syria’s impact on the global crude market is more political than physical, there is potential for prices to move higher should violence spread to other countries in the region.  Crude oil settled at $110.53 at Friday’s close, up nearly three percent on the week and marking the 46th consecutive settlement above $100 per barrel.