Motorists noticed an increase at the gas pump this week in Montcalm County, but according to petroleum analysts, the hike was caused by regulations to have cleaner gas during the summer months.
According to Senior Petroleum Analyst Gregg Laskoski of GasBuddy.com, gas prices increase because refineries are getting ready to produce their summer blend, which has to be available by May 1.
“The summer blend is mandated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency),” Laskoski said, noting summer-blend gasoline burns cleaner to reduce pollution.
In order to start producing the summer blend, Laskoski said refineries start to shut down some of their production activity to make room for the new product. Because production slows, it tightens up the amount of gasoline available to consumers.
Although the summer-blend gasoline does not have to be out until May 1, he said, the cycle starts now so warmer states like California can get the cleaner-burning gasoline sooner.
“This is one thing that drives up (gas prices) this time of year,” Laskoski said.
The difference in summer-blend gasoline and winter-blend gasoline, Laskoski explained, is the amount of Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP).
According to EPA.gov, RVP is a common measure of a generic term for gasoline volatility and it regulates the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer. The website states the regulation is in effect from June 1 to Sept. 15.
Laskoski said in winter blends, the RVP can be found between 11 and 15. In the summer-blend gasolines, the RVP is at nine or below.
Although the price hike can be seen across the nation, Laskoski said other states did not see the 20- to 30-cent hike Michigan did this week.
“The Great Lakes states always see a drastic increase,” he said.
One of the reasons for this, Laskoski said, is because compared to the rest of the nation, there are fewer refineries that produce gasoline for the Great Lakes region.
As of Tuesday, the average price for gasoline in Michigan was $3.949, he said, adding one month ago, the average was $3.379.
“This has to be pretty upsetting for consumers (in that area),” Laskoski said.
For the future, Laskoski said the peak for gas prices is still predicted to hit in April — just in time to kick off the traveling season.
Laskoski said although April is projected to be the peak, it does not mean gas prices will plummet in the following months, but should come off the peak and begin to level out.
During the peak of prices, Laskoski predicts the nation’s average gasoline price will be between $3.809 and $3.959. However, in Michigan (based on Detroit) the gas peak is projected to be between $3.959 and $4.259.
According to GasBuddy.com, on Tuesday, Michigan had the eighth highest average at $3.939. Hawaii was the highest with $4.337 and Wyoming was the lowest with $3.229.