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The Worst May Be Over for Midwest Drivers

After weeks of pain brought on by a number of ill-timed refinery maintenance efforts, drivers in the upper Midwest may finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. According to WANE.com, analysts project that the refineries in question are set to resume production at their normal levels shortly:

Analysts said one major Illinois refinery is back online and another big one in Indiana is on track to ramp up production again soon. The refineries’ ongoing maintenance — which led to reduced supply and higher prices — are the primary culprits for the surge at the pump.

“On balance I think the worst is over,” Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at GasBuddy.com, said Tuesday.

Gasbuddy.com provides the data for wane.com’s Gas Gauge which shows that many stations are already lowering prices.

Exxon Mobil’s refinery in Joliet, Ill., was offline longer than expected, he said. Assuming there are no hiccups with BP’s plans to soon restart a crude unit at its refinery in Whiting, Ind., prices could drop below $4 a gallon within weeks throughout a five-state region stretching from Wisconsin to Ohio, according to experts.

“You just have one refinery issue after another. As they’re coming back on, that should be a big thing,” said Phil Flynn, chief energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

However, consumers in Michigan still face some of the highest prices in the nation. Local news in Detroit reports:

“…gas prices are still averaging almost $4.18 for the state and $4.16 for the Detroit area. That’s over 50 cents more than the current national average of $3.64.

According to the website GasBuddy.com, Michigan currently has the third highest gas prices for any state in the country, behind only Hawaii and Illinois. The website also list Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Grand Rapids as all being in the top ten list of cities with the highest gas prices in the country.”

Allegations of price fixing and market tampering run rampant – but regardless it’s clear that consumers are still at the whim of extraordinary events and price shocks. As Gulf braces for a new hurricane season, it seems entirely likely that refinery shutdowns will remain an ongoing concern.

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