Over the past year, Douglas County residents have enjoyed moderate prices when they pull up to a gas pump.
But in recent months, the numbers at the pumps have been climbing like the jackpots on a lottery tote board.
As of Friday morning, the average price for regular gas Douglas County rests just below the $3-per-gallon mark. Some communities have already surpassed that threshold.
According to AAA Oregon, the average price per gallon for regular fuel in Roseburg was $3.004 as of 7 a.m. Friday. Sutherlin, Myrtle Creek and Reedsport were still below the $3 threshold. Reedsport came in the lowest at $2.889 per gallon, with Sutherlin averaging $2.961 and Myrtle Creek $2.989.
Throughout Douglas County, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.39 on Jan. 1. There was an initial spike of 15 cents countywide on average prior to Jan. 20, followed by a steady climb to $3.09 at many stations as of Friday morning.
That aggregate average has risen to $2.991 per gallon, a 27-cent jump from Feb. 5 and 24 cents above the national average of $2.752.
The bad news: At least one industry observer says gasoline prices will continue to rise for now.
Marie Dodds, who reports on fuel prices for AAA in Oregon, expects to see those prices continue to rise as the country pushes toward the finish line of the coronavirus pandemic and returns to “business as usual.”
“We’re seeing these prices rise because of expectations in the (crude oil) market among investors that with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout,” Dodds said. “The reality is we’re still a long way away from normal activity.”
That speculation has been the driving force behind the rising price of crude oil, which is already pushing the $70 per barrel plateau.
By comparison, at the end of 2016, crude was selling at $37 per barrel, and the national average for a price of regular fuel was below $2.
Andrew Shirtcliff, owner of Shirtcliff Oil, said this most recent climb in crude oil prices feels out of the ordinary.
“I think this is a little bit of an exaggerated cycle,” Shirtcliff said, who took over ownership of the local family-run business 14 years ago. “This new (President Joe Biden) administration has blatantly said that they wanted to lower the carbon footprint and reduce emissions.
“I think the increase we’re seeing now is a direct result of (investors) guessing what’s going to happen in the future with the new administration’s policies.”
According to AAA, the national average price of a gallon of fuel was $1.99 on Jan. 20, 2016, the lowest since March 25, 2009. On Jan. 4, the average was $2.336. While there was natural fluctuation in the price of crude oil, prices were able to maintain relative stability.
Since Jan. 4, that price has risen more than 40 cents to $2.752.
Currently, Oregon ranks sixth in the nation for the highest price for regular gas at $2.983. As of Friday, California leads the way at $3.718, followed by Hawaii, Washington and Nevada all above the $3 mark. Arizona ranked fifth at $2.999.
Dodds said that she would anticipate the market to settle and for Oregonians to begin seeing a little relief at the pump by mid-April.
“We’ll have to watch what’s happening,” Dodds said. “We had already figured crude would have settled down, but it’s still relatively high.”