When Jay Ricker, owner of the BP filling station off Interstate 70 in Plainfield, Ind., set the price of unleaded gasoline at $3.44 per gallon on Monday of last week, it was 4 cents higher than the Friday before.
That alone might have been irritating to drivers paying the highest gas prices in more than two years. It was even more so because it happened on a day when the price of crude oil, which is used to make gasoline, fell almost $1 a barrel.
“It’s up 20 cents one day, down 10 cents the next day,” says Oscar Elmore, a courier who was filling up his Ford Taurus at a RaceTrac service station in Dallas recently. “It sounds kinda fishy to me.”
Gas prices rise when oil prices rise, and fall when oil prices fall — except when they don’t. What you pay at your filling station depends on an array of factors, from what happens on an exchange in New York to what the competition is charging.
This can rankle drivers, especially these days. Gas reached a national average of $3.51 a gallon Monday. That’s up 14 cents, or 4 percent, over the past week. The week before, the average rose 20 cents, the steepest increase since September 2008. A year ago, the price was $2.75. The average is the highest it’s ever been this time of year, and analysts expect it to climb higher in the coming weeks.