Gas prices appear to heading downward in the Tacoma area after a long run-up that began just after Christmas.
I hesitate to write such news because the volatile gasoline market in Western Washington has made me a liar before.
Consider the prediction of a gasoline analyst at GasBuddy.com.
“I expect stations to increase prices as much as 10-35 cents per gallon by the conclusion of the weekend with some stations starting to raise prices immediately,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst.
DeHaan said the holiday weekend demand on the still-short Northwest gasoline supplies could pump up prices temporarily to unprecedented levels, but prices would likely fall after the Memorial Day holiday, albeit slowly.
Here are the pre-holiday numbers from the News Tribune’s Gas Deal Finder: The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular in the Tacoma area today, $4.239. Average price of a gallon of gas at this time last week, $4.263. That’s a difference of 2.4 cents.
That’s not much to cheer about considering present prices are still the highest they’ve been since the summer of 2008, but at least the numbers are moving in the right direction.
Those prices are still 17 cents higher than they were a month ago here and nearly 31 cents higher than they were a year ago in Tacoma.
While national prices have headed steeply downward (15.7 cents less than they were a month ago), our prices have stubbornly resisted the downturn until the last few days.
And local average prices remain more than 55 cents higher than the national average. Blame those local inflated prices on short inventories of gas. Those inventories in Western Washington are the lowest they’ve been since 1992, according to the AAA.
One key ingredient in that tight supply is the state’s largest refinery, BP’s at Cherry Point near Blaine. That refinery is just restarting after repairing fire damage that occurred on Feb. 17.
Sources close to the situation at Cherry Point said the refinery is producing some products now, but is not yet up to full production.
Even with the refinery running at full speed, it may take weeks for the inventories of gas to return to normal levels.
The least expensive gas in the Tacoma area is still well over $4 a gallon, $4.09 at the Arco at Portland Avenue and 104th Street East.