Quiktrip (copy)

A gas pump at QuikTrip at 51st Street and Lewis Avenue is seen on April 27. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World file

After dropping to a low of $1.76 in April, the national gas price average is pennies away from hitting the $2-a-gallon mark, AAA Oklahoma said Tuesday.

Tuesday’s average was $1.96, which is 8 cents higher than a week ago, 19 cents more than last month, but still a significant 87 cents cheaper than the end of May 2019.

Oklahoma saw the largest weekly increase of all South and Southeast states with an average of $1.63. Motorists in the Sooner state are still paying among the lowest prices for gas in the nation, AAA said.

The more expensive pump prices can be attributed to fluctuations in crude and demand. In the past week, crude oil hit its highest price point — nearly $34 per barrel — since the Trump administration declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency and many states started implementing stay-at-home restrictions.

U.S. benchmark crude closed at $34.35 a barrel on Tuesday.

While demand has been increasing since the end of April, it is down 28% compared to the first three weeks of May last year.

“Americans have seen significantly cheaper-than-normal gas prices the past two months. However, those low prices — as well as crude oil prices — have been pushing more expensive” said Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma spokeswoman. “While motorists will see pump prices continue to increase, AAA does not expect the summer average to be as expensive as last year’s season.”

One factor that could cause a sudden spike in gas prices is the Atlantic hurricane season, which is June 1 through Nov. 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts the 2020 season will be above-normal, potentially resulting in 13-19 named storms. An average Atlantic hurricane season typically produces 12 named storms, including 3 major hurricanes.

The latest build in gasoline stocks have driven total regional levels up to 90.2 million barrels. However, with the holiday weekend and states re-opened for business, next week’s U.S. Energy Information Administration measurement report has the potential to show stock declines. Regardless, stock levels and refinery rates are amid the highest in the country, which will contribute to more moderate jumps in gas prices in coming weeks, AAA said.

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