Much to the relief of Memorial Day weekend travelers, dire predictions of monumental gas price increases over the holiday failed to prove true in Western Washington.
Average gas prices in the Tacoma area rose just 4.5 cents over the last week according to The News Tribune’s Gas Deal Finder, far less than the 10 to 35 cents per gallon that at least one prominent energy analyst had prophesied late last week.
And there are now some signs that gas prices, after a months-long upward ride, may soon be headed downward.
At midafternoon Tuesday, average prices for a gallon of unleaded regular in the Tacoma area were down 0.3 cents from Monday’s peak.
And oil industry sources say that BP’s Cherry Point refinery, the largest in the state, is once again producing at normal capacity after being shut down since a Feb. 17 fire.
The BP refinery’s closure was a key ingredient in the supply shortage that propelled prices here and along the West Coast upward when prices in other parts of the country were falling.
Gas prices nationwide continue falling. The nationwide average Tuesday was $3.651 a gallon, some 64 cents less than the Tacoma average price.
The weekend’s Tacoma-area peak average prices, a bit short of $4.30 a gallon, failed to set the new records for the Tacoma area that some analysts had predicted last week. The record in Tacoma is an average of $4.34 a gallon set in the summer of 2008.
Prices in the Olympia area remained in the same general price bracket as those in Tacoma with gas available there for as low as $4.17 a gallon, but with most stations selling regular between $4.25 and $4.30 a gallon.
Prices were slightly higher in Seattle, according to Seattlegasprices.com. There a gallon was slightly more than $4.30 a gallon Tuesday afternoon. That’s about 3 cents more a gallon than at the same time last week.
In Washington, the average price was $4.256 a gallon with higher prices in the Seattle area and northward in Western Washington and with prices below $4 a gallon in Eastern Washington, where supplies were available from Montana and Utah refineries.
Prices still could rise as higher-priced wholesale spot market gas moves into the market, but the trend Tuesday was slightly downward, said gasoline distributors.
Once the supplies begin rebuilding, gasoline retailers say the price could fall steeply. That’s what happened in 2008 when the mid-summer highs fell below $3 a gallon during the fall.