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Tampa Bay area gas prices are climbing — and here's why

Gas prices has spiked recently in the Tampa Bay area, which is routine this time of year as refineries gear up for summer. MONICA HERNDON | TIMES

Gas prices has spiked recently in the Tampa Bay area, which is routine this time of year as refineries gear up for summer. MONICA HERNDON | TIMES

Gas prices in Tampa Bay have surged this month as the nation's refineries gear up for summertime and crude oil has rebounded from rock-bottom lows.

A gallon of regular gasoline in the area cost an average of $1.81 on Monday, rising almost 17 cents in just a week, according to AAA. The statewide average was $1.84.

The rocketing prices bring Tampa Bay into line with the rest of the country. Just a week ago, gas in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area was well below the national average, but prices here have quickly caught up.

Why the sudden change? You can blame the approach of spring and the rising price of crude oil for that, said Gregg Laskoski, the Tampa-based senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.

Oil refineries are switching gears and getting ready to make a less polluting (but more expensive) summer blend of gasoline. And the benchmark crude oil has risen to nearly $38 a barrel, up more than $10 since its low-point last month.

So this month's jump isn't unexpected, Laskoski said, and while gas prices won't keep rising this quickly, they're not going to get any cheaper. Instead, they'll probably peak this summer between $2.25 and $2.50 a gallon, he said.

But as gas gets more expensive, it's worth remembering that it could be worse.

This time a year ago, Tampa Bay drivers were paying $2.42 a gallon, AAA says.

And even that was a deal compared to the all-time high in July 2008, when the local average cracked $4.

"We've really been spoiled," Laskoski said.

Contact Thad Moore at tmoore@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3434. Follow @thadmoore.

Tampa Bay area gas prices are climbing — and here's why 03/07/16 [Last modified: Monday, March 7, 2016 6:37pm]
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