Despite a prolonged hurricane season and increasing demand for fuel nationwide, Idaho gas prices dropped two cents this week, while the U.S. average held steady. But as states ease the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, more drivers are hitting the road. According to AAA, overall fuel demand is now just six percent less than it was a year ago.
“Right now, you have forces of supply and demand that are balancing the scales on the national level,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “On one hand, the arrival of Hurricane Delta led to the shutdown of 91 percent of crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, which would normally cause gas prices to temporarily spike. But due to the pandemic, the demand for fuel is also down, and that’s taken some of the pressure off the reduced supply.”
In a normal year, gas prices tend to steadily drop after Labor Day before briefly leveling off sometime during the holiday season. But pent-up demand could lead to pockets of elevated travel activity in some parts of the country, and corresponding jumps in pump prices.
“There’s a reason we’ve been using phrases like ‘wobbly’ and ‘teeter-totter’ to describe gas prices lately,” Conde said. “While we think the general trend will still be toward lower prices as the temperature drops, we could see an occasional contradictory blip on the radar, including here in the Gem State.”
Today, the average price for regular in Idaho is $2.37, which is nine cents less than a month ago, and 41 cents less than a year ago. While gas prices dropped three cents in Boise this week, drivers in other parts of the Gem State saved even more, including Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, and Twin Falls, where gas prices dropped by a nickel. Drivers in Idaho Falls are paying the same as a week ago to fill up, while Pocatello prices have dropped four cents.
Meanwhile, the U.S. average held steady on the week at $2.19, a penny less than a month ago and 45 cents cheaper than a year ago. 45 of the 50 states saw price fluctuations of just a penny or two in either direction. Today, motorists can buy gas for $2.25 per gallon or cheaper at 72% of gas stations nationwide, compared to just 12% of stations last October. The most expensive fuel can be found in Hawaii, at $3.24 per gallon, closely followed by California at $3.21. The cheapest fuel can be purchased in Mississippi at $1.85 per gallon.
The nationwide demand for fuel recently hit 8.8 million barrels per day, just six percent less than a year ago. According to the Energy Information Administration, there are 227 million barrels of finished gasoline on hand, but supplies dropped by 1.7 million bbl on the week.
The West Texas Intermediate benchmark for crude oil continues to hover near $40 a barrel, which is $13 per barrel less than a year ago. There is ongoing market speculation that the number of coronavirus infections worldwide could lower the demand for crude oil and the finished products, like gasoline, that are distilled from it.
Here’s a sample of gas prices around the Gem State as of Oct. 12
Boise - $2.36, Coeur d’Alene - $2.23, Franklin - $2.41, Idaho Falls - $2.29, Lewiston - $2.39, Pocatello - $2.39 and Twin Falls - $2.38.