EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

August 19, 2012

Gas prices to hit record-high averages

Experts predict price drop in fall

Setting a record can be a proud accomplishment, except when you’re talking about record-high gasoline prices.

Massachusetts and New Hampshire are on track to break the yearly mark for the states’ highest average gas prices ever, $3.64 and $3.59 per gallon, respectively. The record was set last year — $3.54 in Massachusetts and $3.50 in New Hampshire.

It’s part of a national trend of soaring prices at the pump, triggered by turbulence in the Middle East and problems at U.S. oil refineries and pipelines.

In the last month alone, gas prices have risen 21 cents a gallon in Massachusetts and 22 cents in New Hampshire, according to AAA.

Yesterday, the average price for a gallon of regular was $3.74 in the Bay State compared to $3.69 in the Granite State.

“We haven’t even seen any hurricanes,” said Pat Moody, spokesman for AAA of Northern New England.

The impact of a hurricane, common this time of year, can send petroleum prices soaring.

But the big problems have been continued troubles in the Middle East between Iran and Israel, and pipeline ruptures and refinery shutdowns on the West Coast and in the Midwest, according to Gregg Laskoski, a petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“What we have is significant supply problems,” Laskoski said.

Although tension between countries in the Middle East has typically had a significant impact on U.S. fuel prices, Laskoski said, the troubles with refineries and pipelines is a newer, but growing problem.

In the last month, there were ruptures in pipelines serving Wisconsin and Illinois, equipment problems that led to shutdowns at refineries in Illinois and Indiana, and a large fire that struck a refinery in California.

“We have an aging infrastructure,” Laskoski said.

The California refinery is 110 years old, he said.

“There hasn’t been a refinery built in the United States since the 1970s,” he said. “Everyone realizes we need more refineries, but no one wants one near them.”

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