GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the 10th straight week, West Michigan is seeing lower gas prices and the big question on everyone’s mind is whether that will continue.
“The average now is $3.72 a gallon. That’s down from the $5.19 we were paying back in mid-June, so we’re now approaching a $1.50 decline in the price of gasoline over the last couple of months, and prices should continue to inch downward,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said Friday.
De Haan said there was potential for some stations to reach $2.99 per gallon, but that was all thrown out the window when the Midwest’s largest refinery, BP Whiting, caught fire on Wednesday.
“Now, prices aren’t necessarily going to go up because of that big drop in wholesale prices. The fire is merely going to offset what could have been, but we have to keep an eye on how long that refinery could be down,” De Haan said.
This comes as we head into one of the country’s busiest travel weekends.
“I’m a little bit worried about what could still happen if BP comes out and provides information that the damage was more extensive. That could eventually cause prices to go up before Labor Day,” De Haan said. “Right now, the way I’m feeling, we may be able to see prices continue dropping… (but) it’s really up in the air…”
Either way, there is relief coming as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s summer gas requirement ends on Sept. 15 and stations can switch to selling the cheaper winter gasoline. For the past couple of decades, the EPA has required a “special blend of gasoline (be) used during the summer, especially when ambient temperatures are higher and there’s more ozone release,” De Haan explained.
“As with many things in life, if it’s better for the environment, it generally costs more,” he said.
Winter gasoline, on the other hand, is more common and the components in it are cheaper, which leads to lower prices at the pump.
“It may be a bit more volatile but in cooler months, that certainly is not a point of contention,” De Haan said.
Looking to the end of the year, De Haan is hopeful that we could see prices in the low $3 range.
“It’s not impossible but… we could see a station or two go under $3 by the end of the year,” De Haan said. “Again, this is all contingent on an ever changing climate for oil and gasoline prices, so what happens today could change tomorrow and a lot of that has been true lately.”