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Published: Thursday, 6/6/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Area gasoline prices sprint past $4 a gallon for 1st time in 15 months

BY DAVID PATCH AND ARIELLE STAMBLER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Gasoline is at $4.199 a gallon at the Marathon station at Woodville Road and Earl Street near I-280. About a week ago, prices in the $3.60s were common locally. Gasoline is at $4.199 a gallon at the Marathon station at Woodville Road and Earl Street near I-280. About a week ago, prices in the $3.60s were common locally.
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Alexandrea Lozoya was in for a surprise when she pulled up to a North Toledo gas station Wednesday afternoon: The price for regular was $4.099 per gallon.

The Toledo resident had to buy some — her “gas guzzler” needed a drink before she could get to school in Maumee — but she opted to pump just $20 worth instead of filling up, and vowed to look into carpooling with classmates soon.

“I’m just not gonna drive,” Ms. Lozoya said while pumping gas at the Sunoco at 4810 Suder Ave.

Prices jumped over the $4-per-gallon mark for self-service regular on Tuesday for the first time in about 15 months, to as high as $4.199 at some stations on Wednesday, prompting motorists to cut back their purchases and, perhaps, their travel plans, too.

Jeni Aldaco of Sylvania said she might cancel her usual summer camping and Cedar Point trips if prices stay high.

“Thirty dollars usually gives me half a tank,” she said at the BP station at 5810 N. Detroit Ave. “Now it will buy me less. I’ll have to get whatever fits in my budget.”

The price increase continued an upward run that began late last week, when gasoline jumped from the $3.60s to the upper $3.80s.

Some local stations’ prices for regular remained below $4 per gallon later Wednesday, with lines forming at the pumps of some stations.

Gasbuddy.com’s local average price Wednesday evening, based on spotter reports, of $3.957 per gallon for regular was 9 cents higher than Tuesday and up 37.6 cents per gallon in a week.

It was the highest local average since March, 2012, the last time many local stations topped the $4-per-gallon mark. Toledo’s highest average ever was about $4.15 per gallon during the spring of 2011.

Furthermore, prices in the lower Great Lakes region are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country — even higher right now than the Northeast and California, which, after Hawaii, normally have the most expensive gas in the United States.

Blame the spike on regional supply shortages caused by construction at several Chicago-area refineries, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Gasbuddy and the Oil Price Information Service.

The BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., has been producing at reduced volume this spring during modifications to accept a heavier-grade oil and a maintenance-and-upgrade shutdown at an ExxonMobil refinery in Joliet, Ill., has lasted longer than expected, Mr. Kloza said.

That has tightened the regional refined-products supply enough to boost the region’s wholesale gasoline price as high as $3.75 per gallon — $1 per gallon higher than New York and the Gulf Coast. Add in the typical retail markup of about 50 cents per gallon, which includes taxes, and the area’s prices make more sense, the analyst said.

But wholesale prices have already started to drop, Mr. Kloza said, and retail prices should follow, possibly persisting through the week and dropping after that.

“This is an episode; it’s not a trend,” he said.

William Harrison of Toledo is among those who, while buying $3.969 regular at a Marathon station on Alexis near Bennett Road on Wednesday, said he, too, bases how much he buys on whether he believes prices are headed higher or lower.

“If it was real high, I’d buy enough to get by, and then I’d wait until it went down to get a full tank,” he said. “I definitely have a strategy.”

The few people who seemed to have positive thoughts about Toledo’s prices were motorists from Michigan who said they were filling up before heading home because gas costs even more to the north.

“I work here [in Toledo] a couple days a week, so I purposely fill up in Ohio where it’s cheaper,” Art Lambart, of Grosse Ile, Mich., said while filling up at the BP on North Detroit.

But Pam Werner of Erie said the Toledo price difference wasn’t enough to fill up on Wednesday — especially with no real bargains to be found.

“I checked GasBuddy.com, but it’s the same everywhere,” she said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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