A refinery fire and China’s economy: How Idaho has fallen below the average US gas price

For the first time in almost a year, Idahoans are paying less at the pump than the average American.

Gasoline pump with handle dispenses fuel into car. Stock, generic. Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2019.

© David Staats/Idaho Statesman/TNS
Gasoline pump with handle dispenses fuel into car. Stock, generic. Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2019.

Gas prices in the Gem State averaged $3.39 per gallon on Monday, a couple of cents below the national average of $3.42, according to AAA.


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The last time that Idaho enjoyed gas prices below the national average was in February 2022. That lasted for about a month until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused gas prices to spike nationwide. In Ada County, prices reached as high as $5.34 per gallon in July 2022.

The Gem State now ranks 21st in the nation for the most expensive fuel. And while Idaho’s gas prices are falling steadily — gas cost 12 cents more per gallon one month ago — the sudden flip to falling below the national average is more because of prices rising elsewhere.

Due to multiple global and national factors, high gasoline demand has resulted in pump prices rising. The Energy Information Administration reported that gasoline demand has increased from 7.5 million barrels per day to 8 million barrels per day in the last week.

Hawaii has the most expensive gas at $4.94 per gallon, according to AAA, while California is the second most expensive, at $4.45.

“So far, Idaho is swimming against the current, but we may not be able to hold out for much longer. Powerful forces could sweep us into the price increases that are happening elsewhere,” AAA Idaho spokesperson Matthew Conde stated in a news release.

“Crude oil continues to be very expensive, fuel demand is on the rise, and a refinery shutdown in Colorado has tightened regional supplies,” Conde continued. “All of these factors could play a part in higher pump prices this week.”

What factors are causing prices to rise?

The West Texas Intermediate benchmark, one of three benchmarks in oil pricing worldwide, is trading crude oil near $82 per barrel as of Jan. 23. That price is $2 more than a week ago and $3 more than a month ago.

A driving factor in barrel prices increasing is China’s announcement that it is reopening its economy, despite high COVID-19 infection rates.

The announcement, almost three years after the country closed its trading borders, indicates that global crude oil demand may be higher than anticipated, according to AAA. China was the world’s largest importer of crude petroleum before the pandemic.

A fire at the Suncor refinery in Commerce City, Colorado, has resulted in the refinery being offline until mid to late March, causing pressure nationally, too.

According to AAA, the Suncor refinery provides approximately 35-40% of the fuel that Coloradans use, including the Denver metro area. With the refinery unable to operate, regional oil supplies throughout the western half of the country may become strained as demand increases, resulting in price increases.

“If the market continues to feel this kind of pressure, higher gas prices could follow,” Conde said. “But on the other hand, another cold snap could ease demand, or crude oil prices could reverse course. We’ll have to keep a close eye on how things unfold.”

Gas prices in Idaho

As of Monday, gas prices in Idaho were $3.39 per gallon. Ada County averaged $3.43 per gallon, but several gas stations were offering gas as low as $3.25, such as the Costco at 2051 S. Cole Road and the Albertsons at 10565 W Lake Hazel Road.

Several other gas stations around Boise are also below $3.40 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.

Valley County in central Idaho has the highest average cost of gas in the state at $3.73, and Kootenai County in the Idaho Panhandle has the cheapest at $3.23.

Check out the interactive map below to see how much your county pays — the map updates daily with the most recently available prices.

You can also check the updating map below comparing Ada County to Idaho’s most and least expensive counties for gas, Valley and Kootenai Counties, respectively.

©2023 The Idaho Statesman. Visit idahostatesman.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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