Illinois gas averages $3.25 a gallon even after pipeline resumes operation

Illinois gas averages $3.25 a gallon even after pipeline resumes operation

The Colonial Pipeline shutdown set off a gasoline price increase, but summer travel demand and pricier summer blends are likely to keep them there. Illinois averages $3.25 per gallon, AAA reports.

Illinois gas prices were up to $3.25 per gallon May 17 for regular unleaded, which AAA reports as the highest average in the Midwest.

Gas prices have risen across the nation following the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline May 7 that forced the fuel distributor to halt operations. The pipeline supplied roughly 45% of the East Coast’s fuel

While the shutdown mainly impacted the East Coast, experts suggest the closure, coupled with growing driver demand in the leadup to Memorial Day weekend, is driving price increases at the pump.

AAA released its holiday forecast May 11, showing 1.8 million Illinoisans plan to travel for the Memorial Day holiday – nearly 57% more than in 2020.

Vaccinations and eagerness to “get out” are responsible for the increase despite gas prices increasing by 35% since last May, AAA spokeswoman Molly Hart said.

“Last year, gas prices were so low. Now, people are looking at the gas prices today and it feels like a sticker shock,” Hart said.

As of May 17, Gas Buddy and AAA both listed Illinois as having the highest average gas price in the Midwest. AAA set the national average at $3.04, while Illinois stood at $3.25, according to the site.

Prices were highest in Chicago, with an average of $3.58. The Chicago metro area follows with an average of $3.36 per gallon.

Prices started hitting highs just as Gov. J.B. Pritzker pushed Illinoisans and drivers from neighboring states to take a road trip in Illinois. The governor’s “Time For Me to Drive” campaign is a $6 million initiative aimed jump-starting state tourism.

“After an incredibly difficult year in which the pandemic kept us all close to home and staying apart, lifesaving vaccines are bringing us back to life and heading toward a summer of fun and venturing out,” Pritzker said May 12.

Illinois began its “Bridge Phase” to reopening its economy May 14 and Pritzker has predicted Illinois will “fully reopen” by June 11.

Illinois gas prices are the highest in the Midwest partly because the state tax on gasoline doubled in 2019 to 38 cents per gallon from 19 cents. It is automatically hiked every July 1 for inflation, with this year’s boost hitting $0.392 per gallon.

After the last automatic increase in 2020, Illinois’ average gas taxes ranked third highest in the nation. The hike set for July 1 will see the average driver paying the state $105.67 more per year than in 2018.

Warmer weather in Illinois also means paying more at the pump as gas providers make the seasonal transition to summer gasoline blends before June 1. NACS reports this higher-grade fuel designed to reduce emissions in warmer months can add up to 15 cents per gallon.

According to Bloomberg, Colonial Pipeline Co. paid nearly $5 million to the Eastern European hackers since the cyberattack and resumed fuel shipment May 12.

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