Gas prices soar as refineries experience routine and unexpected outages

As of Wednesday, the average price of gas in the Medford-Ashland area was $3.39/gallon, according to AAA. (Genevieve Grippo/News 10)

Drivers are feeling the pinch at the pump as gas prices surge throughout the nation this week, hitting the west coast particularly hard.

On Wednesday, the national average was $2.83 for a gallon of gas, according to AAA. Oregon had an overall average of $3.32 per gallon, which was a 13-cent increase over the week prior.

In southern Oregon, fuel was even more expensive, with an average cost of $3.39 a gallon in the Medford-Ashland area.

Gas tends to see a surge in price each summer as demand increases for summer vacation, but Marie Dodds with AAA Oregon said this year's spike came much sooner than expected. She attributed that to both routine and unexpected maintenance at gasoline refineries as producers switch from their winter gas blends to their summer gas blends.

"This should be routine refinery maintenance, but we've had a lot of unplanned outages," said Dodds. "On top of that, we've got some other factors that are working to send gas prices dramatically higher. One thing is we're seeing summer-like demand. It's only April, but demand right now is more typical in the US of what we'd see in the summer driving season."

Oregon is not alone. California held the number one spot for the most expensive gas in the country at $4.01 a gallon. Hawaii and Washington held the second and third places, coming in at $3.58 and $3.41 a gallon, respectively.

For Justin Johnsy, filling up his tank means letting go of $120. His SUV takes premium fuel, stressing his wallet even more.

"Driving back and forth to Coos Bay is like $100 at least," he said. He said he was skeptical of prices coming down anytime soon.

"I don't know. I might have to get a second job," said Johnsy.

Dodds expects the price to peak within the next month or two. However, the early spike could potentially mean good things for summer adventurers.

"All things point to us having plenty of supply over the summer months, so I think we're feeling the pain most right now," she said. "Things will settle down in time for summer vacations."

The highest average price of gas in Oregon was in July of 2008, when a prices were $4.30 per gallon.

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