Why are Florida gas prices up significantly since December?

Rising crude oil prices and the storm devastating gulf states.
Gas prices are up significantly since December. Pictured are gas prices at a St. Petersburg gas station Monday.
Gas prices are up significantly since December. Pictured are gas prices at a St. Petersburg gas station Monday. [ BILL VARIAN | Times ]
Published Feb. 22, 2021|Updated Feb. 23, 2021

Florida gas prices have rocketed up over the past three months.

Just before the new year, Florida was heading into a five-month low with average pump prices hovering around the $2-per-gallon mark as concerns about the pandemic dampened demand.

But this week, Sunshine State gas prices are up to $2.61 per gallon for regular unleaded as of Monday, according to AAA, the Auto Club Group.

That’s up 15 cents from the same time last week and 21 cents from last month, according to AAA. Tampa Bay prices rose 16 cents since last week, averaging $2.61 per gallon Monday. Its prices increased the same amount since last month as the state’s did.

This most recent spike — about a third of the increase since December 2020 — comes from the winter storms that have devastated Texas over the past week. Power outages stopped oil refinement in many gulf refineries, dampening supply.

“Much of Florida’s gasoline comes from refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. “So an interruption to the supply line there has a direct impact on prices here.”

According to Reuters, electric utilities are being prioritized for natural gas shipments to get power online in Texas, which means refineries are receiving less than they normally would. It said the state’s oil refineries could take “weeks to recover.”

While there is not yet a gas supply shortage, Jenkins said, concerns about a shortage are driving prices higher.

“This pump price hike is similar to what you’d expect if a hurricane struck the gulf coast region,” Jenkins said. “Any reports of extended downtime or significant supply impacts could cause another round of rising prices.”

The other part of rising gas prices comes from greater demand, but not necessarily on the road.

While Florida had a mild winter, northern states did not. They rely on heating oil, which comes from crude oil, to heat their homes during the colder months. Increased demand for it pushes crude oil prices higher, which can affect prices at the pump.

Oil prices jumped in January, bringing several double-digit jumps in prices. Saudi Arabia at that time announced it would cut production by about 1 million barrels per day to even out supply and demand after decreased demand during the pandemic.

Nationally, gas was $2.64 per gallon on average Monday.