Gas prices expected to spike much higher next 2-3 weeks

Gasoline prices could see 10-cent spikes each week during the next two to three weeks, according to GasBuddy.

Gas up your car now if you want to save some money.

Fuel price gauger GasBuddy projects huge spikes in gasoline prices over the next two to three weeks.

“Wednesday brought a big price rally in gasoline markets and gasoline wholesalers are seeing huge increases,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Wholesale prices today alone have increased coast to coast from 10 to 27 cents per gallon. When you add that on top of the increases that occurred earlier this month, it’s inevitable that retail prices will climb aggressively in weeks ahead.”

Since Feb. 2, wholesale gasoline prices nationwide have risen by an average of 54 cents per gallon, DeHaan said.

The West Coast has seen the steepest increases with Los Angeles wholesale pricing up 96 cents a gallon, San Francisco up 84 cents a gallon and the Pacific Northwest up 73 cents a gallon, according to GasBuddy.

While some of the rally is attributed to the seasonal decline in gasoline inventory, reduced refinery output and the shift to summer grades of gasoline, there have also been significant operational issues at refineries in five states, DeHaan said.

A strike by the United Steelworkers Union that began Feb. 1 exacerbates operations at 12 refineries where they’ve imposed “work stoppages” in California, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, he added.

“Volatility is the name of the game right now, and we expect that to translate into 10-cent increases in retail gasoline, week after week over the next two to three weeks, with larger, more immediate increases in West Coast areas,” DeHaan said.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline nationally stood at $2.34 a gallon Thursday, up 31 cents since this time last month, but $1.09 less than a year ago, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report.

In Charleston and North Charleston, the price was up to $2.14 a gallon Thursday, 29 cents higher than a month ago, but $1.05 less than a year ago.

The average price in South Carolina was $2.09 a gallon Thursday, $1.07 less than a year ago.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.