Gas prices continue to creep upward

Gas prices ticked up two cents a gallon in Texas to settle at $2.03 a gallon.
Gas prices ticked up two cents a gallon in Texas to settle at $2.03 a gallon. AP

Gas prices are slowly marching upward, largely spurred by the possibility that OPEC, nearly eight years after the global financial crisis, may cut crude oil production.

In Texas, the statewide price for a gallon of unleaded gas ticked up 2 cents in the past week to settle at $2.03, Texas AAA Fuel Gauge reported Thursday. It is the fourth week in a row that the statewide average went up, and it has increased 7 cents since Sept. 14.

Nationwide, AAA reported Monday that gas prices had climbed 12 of the last 14 days to reach $2.26 a gallon, 3 cents higher than a week ago and 8 cents more than a month ago. By Thursday, the national average had dropped to $2.25.

“Texas gas prices continue to be among the least expensive prices in the country,” said Doug Shupe, the Texas/New Mexico AAA spokesman.

Motorists in Fort Worth and Arlington are paying $1.98 a gallon, the same as last week, AAA reported. In Dallas, unleaded was $2, up a penny from a week ago. Fort Worth motorists are paying 6 cents more than a year ago; Dallas drivers 8.

Analysts credit climbing gas prices to the prospect of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cutting production by 32.5 million to 33 million barrels a day. Since that announcement, domestic oil prices have climbed, hitting $51.35 a barrel this week, their highest closing price since July 2015.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency, in its October energy outlook released Thursday, is forecasting that domestic oil will average $48 a barrel for the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.

While OPEC has “mulled and talked about” production cuts over the past few years, this time there is some belief that the oil cartel may be serious, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst at GasBuddy.

“It is contingent on OPEC. Now it is make-or-break time. Will they cut or not will determine the direction of gas prices across the country over the next few weeks,” he said.

Gas prices are just below where they were a year ago, but not by much. While GasBuddy previously predicted prices to moderate this fall, DeHaan wrote in a blog this week, the unpredictability of OPEC and refinery issues in other parts of the country have “thrown a wrench into those expectations.”

Just over 13 percent of the gas stations in the United States are selling gas under $2 a gallon, lower than 15 percent a year ago, DeHaan wrote. He said the difference is that 56 percent are under $2.25 a gallon, while a year ago just 48.5 percent were under that level.

The statewide average has been hovering near $2 for about 10 weeks.

In Texas’ major metro areas, drivers in Texarkana were paying the most at $2.09 a gallon, while motorists in Corpus Christi were enjoying the lowest prices at $1.96 per gallon, AAA reported.

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB