St. Joe Cab driver

St. Joe Cab driver Jeremy Wilson steps into his cab.

Drivers have probably noticed an increase in gas prices, as Missouri’s statewide average has risen two cents in the last day, 13 cents in the past week and 28 cents in a month.

Kansas residents have also felt the spike, with an increase very similar to Missouri’s numbers.

According to reports by AAA, the higher prices are here to stay, but motorists can expect them to stop spiking soon. Nick Chabarria, AAA spokesman based at the agency’s St. Louis regional headquarters, said these higher prices are largely due to an increase in crude oil and a temporary, weather-related shutdown of many refineries.

“We did see a little bit of a spike in gas prices at the pump because of the winter weather,” Chabarria said. “Now, that’s obviously going to be temporary. As soon as the refineries get back online and production gets back to a normal level, that spike will kind of start to subside.”

The icy winter weather shut down oil refineries across six states last week, including Kansas. Chabarria said storms knocked out about 40% of U.S. crude oil production. However, AAA also expects many of those refineries to reopen this week, if they haven’t already.

Chabarria said half of what drivers pay for at the pump is the price of crude oil, and a steady increase in those prices during the last few months has been a large contributor to higher gas costs. Due to the influx of fuel during the pandemic, oil producers overseas agreed to cut production for 2021 in order to even out the mismatched supply and demand from 2020. As a result of this, the price of crude oil has increased by up to $5 per barrel each week since December.

Local motorists are starting to feel the hit on their wallets, as well. Jeremy Wilson has been a driver for St. Joe Cab for 15 years and pays for his own fuel. He said the steady gas price increase affects him every day.

“Now, when we’re at $2.40 a gallon, I put in five to six, maybe seven, gallons a day,” Wilson said. “Call it like a $2 per day additional. So, you go on a weekly basis, that’s $10 more a week. So it definitely can affect the pocket, for sure.”

Chabarria said other factors affecting gas prices right now are the fact that summer mixtures are more expensive to create and the season brings a higher demand for gasoline as more people are out traveling.

But when comparing numbers from previous years, Chabarria said 2020 is somewhat of an outlier and isn’t a great comparison to 2021’s prices. Missouri saw gas prices dip to 15-year lows last year and stay under $2 for almost 300 consecutive days.

“We kind of got accustomed to these extremely low prices due to the pandemic,” Chabarria said. “Now as vaccines are kind of rolling out and there’s more confidence and people traveling… we’re seeing prices kind of return to those pre-pandemic levels and in some instances the prices are more expensive than they were this time last year.”

The national gas price average on Feb. 19, 2019, was $2.33, which is lower than this week’s national average of $2.64. The silver lining, however, is that while national averages are rising, Missouri currently has the seventh cheapest statewide average for unleaded in the country at $2.40.

Chabarria said Missouri likely already has seen its lowest gas prices for the first half of 2021 as rising crude oil prices continue. While now is not a time he thinks drivers will need to go stock up on gasoline, Chabarria suggests filling up sooner rather than later to save a few extra bucks.

Morgan Riddell can be reached at morgan.doyle@newspressnow.com