RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — After record low gas prices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, prices at the pump are slowly increasing again across the U.S. — but they’ll still be the cheapest for Memorial Day weekend in nearly two decades.
Across the country, gas prices rose by four cents this week, pushing the national gas price average to $1.87 a gallon at the start of the Memorial Day work week.
The last time the national gas price average leading into Memorial Day weekend was under $2 a gallon was 17 years ago in 2003. That year, drivers paid around $1.50 per gallon to fill up nationally.
This year, prices won't be that cheap, but the national average is a dollar cheaper than one year ago.
In Virginia, the average gas price is up a penny from last week, sitting at $1.69. That's down 3 cents from a month ago and 90 cents cheaper than a year ago.
Locally, the gas price in Harrisonburg is at $1.65 on average, which is up 5 cents from last week, but down from $2.51 one year ago.
“Gas prices around Memorial Day have not been this cheap in nearly 20 years. However, as the country continues to practice social distancing, this year’s unofficial kick-off to summer is not going to drive the typical millions of Americans to travel,” said Morgan Dean, AAA spokesperson. “Despite inexpensive gas prices, AAA anticipates this year’s holiday will likely set a record low for travel volume.”
For the first time in 20 years, AAA does not plan to issue a Memorial Day travel forecast due to COVID-19 impacts on the underlying economic data used to create the forecast.
Virginians are also heavily encouraged to stay at home under Gov. Northam's Phase 1 reopening plans, which call for a 'Safer at Home' approach, and many normal Memorial Day destinations, like beaches, are only open for exercise, or are closed, like many pools.
In the next few weeks, AAA predicts gas prices will rise, possibly getting back up to $2 a gallon in the next few weeks as demand increases with states steadily reopening.
This week also brings the EPA's waiver on the sale of winter-blend gasoline to an end, so stations will switch over to summer-blend gasoline, which has a lower Reid Vapor Pressure to prevent excessive evaporation when outside temperatures rise.
Typically, the switchover to summer-blend can cause gas prices to spike during the summer driving season, though AAA is predicting the impact of COVID-19 on-demand and crude oil prices will moderate that this year.
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