Economy — Uncertainty overseas, war in Iraq drives up prices as summer travel season begins

This is typically the time of year when gasoline prices start to settle down, but continued uncertainty overseas has them going in the other direction.

AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds said gas prices are peaking all over the state as violence in Iraq has intensified.

“The national average for regular unleaded adds two cents (last) week to $3.66 a gallon, while the Oregon average gains three cents to $3.93, which is the year-to-date high,” she said.

Gas prices often decline in June, with the national average falling the previous three years at an average of about 20 cents per PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Not so this year - Gas prices typically decline in June, with the national average falling the previous years an average of 20 cents per gallon.

A year ago the national average was turning lower as domestic production and distribution issues eased, although market watchers were keeping a close eye on geopolitical tensions in Syria. While Syria is not a major oil producing nation, there was concern that fighting might spread to other countries in the region, which kept some upward pressure on crude oil prices.

Experts say that the recent turmoil in Iraq is likely to prevent that trend from repeating this year.

“AAA predicted that drivers would pay relatively high prices for gasoline this summer, with the national average ranging from $3.55 to $3.70 a gallon and Oregon’s average from $3.75 to $3.99,” Dodds said. “However, these prices could climb higher if unrest in Iraq escalates or disrupts oil production in the region.”

The Oregon average could breach $4 a gallon, but unless there’s a major disruption to supply in the Middle East, prices are not expected to climb much higher than that.

The last time Oregon’s average was at or above $4 per gallon was in October 2012.

Drivers in Hawaii, California and Alaska continue to pay more than $4 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline, a trend that has lasted for 24 days. California, Washington and Oregon all remain in the top 10 most expensive states. California is second, Washington is fourth and Oregon is eighth.

Diesel prices are holding fairly steady in most markets. The national average slipped a penny last week to $3.89 a gallon. Oregon’s average gained two cents to $3.94.

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