WASHINGTON – Average regular gasoline prices in Maryland went up 16 cents in January, stopping just a dime shy of the state’s all-time high of $1.71 a gallon in 2001.
The report by the AAA of the Mid-Atlantic said the Maryland increases outpaced the national average rise of 14 cents a gallon — and federal officials said that more increases are expected in the winter and spring.
“Due to the high crude oil cost and the tight inventory situation, pump prices may increase on a monthly basis through the rest of the winter and into late spring,” said the Department of Energy’s short-term outlook.
By the end of the first week in February, the average price for a gallon of self-serve was $1.64 in the state and $1.63 in the country, according to the AAA.
Heating oil prices are not far behind, but they have not increased as much as gasoline, said Pete Horrigan, president of Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors’ Association. Even though this year’s winter has been as cold as last year’s, he said, heating costs overall have been similar to 2003.
The severe winter and the stronger economy are pushing demand, said John White, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. But international crude oil inventories and market speculations are the main problem, because crude oil represents about 48 percent of gasoline price.
The Department of Energy said increasing demand and expected restraint by oil-producing countries “is expected to keep oil inventories near the low end of historical range and oil prices relatively high for the year.”
Production levels could change at a Tuesday meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. In the meantime, gas stations in Maryland are making their own calculations.
While some are selling under the average prices, others are way over it. MarylandGasPrices.com, a Web site recommended by the Department of Energy, shows the gas stations with the lowest and highest daily prices in the state.
While the Web site shows that drivers in Cambridge pay the lowest prices, about $1.52 per gallon, Baltimore and Frederick motorists can pay up to $1.59. Germantown reported some of the highest prices of the state, getting up to $1.79 per gallon of regular, the site said.
But prices can vary widely in neighborhoods not far from each other. A similar site, BaltimoreGasPrices.com, reported Friday that gasoline in north Baltimore could cost $1.73 a gallon, while in northwest Baltimore it could be $1.62.
Horrigan said that retail prices are also affected by marketing decisions. In some areas property is more expensive and costs for doing business are higher, while other counties have very competitive conditions, and gas stations reflect that. In some areas, the fuel specifications are different and that is reflected in the price.
Taxes are another price component. Americans for Tax Reform said there is a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and a state one that is generally around 22 cents.
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