July 25, 2016

Partly sunny

Holiday travel to cost more this year

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is known as a time for family gatherings and barbecues.

But getting families together is going to be more expensive this year.

That’s because gas prices are up.

According to Gasbuddy.com, prices in Medina County are up about a dime a gallon compared with the same time last year.

Prices in the county Friday ranged from $3.77 for a gallon for regular at a Sunoco service station in Seville to $3.93 a gallon at a the Medina Marathon.

The average among the 53 services in the survey was $3.86. That compares to a county average of $3.75 on May 24, 2013, which was the Friday before Memorial Day that year, according to Gasbuddy.com.

Industry experts differ on whether gasoline suppliers are taking advantage of the holiday driving season.

Jeff Lenard, vice president for strategic industry initiatives at the Virginia-based National Association of Convenience Stores, said the biggest reason for the increase is the switch to summer-formulated fuel.

“The holiday is not the reason prices go up, or heavier traffic in summer,” Lenard said. “Memorial Day is just right about the end of the transition to summer-blend fuel.”

Lenard said only a handful of fuels are require during winter months — about five or six types across the country.

But in summer months, refineries begin producing close to 20 fuel types, with several different variations and unique fuels for different areas of the country.

He said these blends are also more difficult and costly to produce.

Lenard said refineries have to begin making the summer fuel blends about April 1, and all wholesale terminals must carry the summer-formulated fuel by May 1.

He said fuels normally are distributed to gas stations by Memorial Day, driving up the cost.

“What usually happens is a week or so after May 1, the process is complete and that’s why prices traditionally peak around then,” Lenard said. “It’s not because it’s Memorial Day and retailers think they can charge more.”

Lenard said national gas price averages have been on a decline since the end of April.

He said the high was $3.67 per gallon nationwide a month ago. It’s down by 2 cents right now.

But in Ohio, it’s been a different story, said Kimberly Schwind, public relations manager for the Ohio Auto Club.

Schwind said prices in Ohio rose about 43 cents per gallon between the first week of February and the end of April.

“There are no refinery issues, but it looks like the local gas market is following the futures market,” she said.

She said the futures market, which projects prices of goods into the weeks ahead based on current global trends, is being affected by a drop in both domestic and foreign crude oil production.

“Crude oil in general has been going up for a number of reasons, including the tensions in Ukraine, and Libyan crude oil production going down,” she said. “In addition, this week domestic crude inventory is down, too.”

But Schwind said prices traditionally go up for the Memorial Day holiday.

“This is very typical and in line with what we saw last year,” she said. “Prices last year were up to $3.95 on the Monday before Memorial Day, but by the holiday they were down to $3.81.”

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.