Gas in Idaho topped $3 for the first time this year — and it could soon get even pricier

For the last month, the price of gasoline in Idaho has been climbing — and this weekend, the average price of gas in Idaho topped $3 for the first time this year.

Between March 23 and April 23, the average statewide price for regular unleaded rose 48 cents per gallon, from $2.47 to $2.95. In Boise, the price shot up 50 cents from $2.49 to $2.99. As of Monday, April 29, the price of gas in Boise was $3.05.

Idaho had the 10th highest gas prices in the country during the last week of April, according to data from AAA, which tracks travel information and gas prices.

While the price of gas is still lower than it was a year ago, $3.08 a gallon, the increase in the last month is a harsh reality check for Idahoans who saw lower than usual gas prices this winter.

“Going into the fall and winter, we had an abnormally low dip in gas prices, so we had that much higher to climb as we come out toward that seasonal trend,” said Matthew Conde, director of public affairs for AAA in Idaho, in a phone interview.

Gas prices are expected to keep rising until Memorial Day to about $3.18, he added.

And they could go even higher. Fuel prices typically rise during the summer months, as a result of increased demand for summer travel as well as scheduled refinery maintenance, which reduces supply. Refineries switch to a different blend of fuel in the summer, and may go offline temporarily to make the change.

Where the refineries around Salt Lake City and Montana where Idaho gets gas from typically run around 90 percent capacity, many are down closer to 80 percent now, Conde said.

“You have reduced refinery capacity against continued high demand for fuel. Those two things are putting aggressive upward pressure on demand,” he added.

Gas prices also could swing in the coming weeks as the U.S. moves to cut off Iran’s oil exports.

The White House announced Monday that the United States would no longer grant sanction exemptions that allow some countries to buy oil from Iran without facing economic penalties. Immediately after, the price of crude oil shot up, and analysts predict that prices will climb higher if the President limits Iran’s oil exports entirely.

“If that can’t be made up on the global level, that’s going to play a role in gas prices,” Conde said.

Consumers’ “pain threshold” for gas prices — or the point where they will actually change their behavior — has increased in the last several years as they get used to higher prices.

“People’s new pain threshold is around $3.50 a gallon,” Conde said. “Barring a significant jump, we don’t expect a lot of changes to people’s travel plans this summer.”

Still, other Western states are seeing far steeper prices at the pump. In California, the statewide average price for regular unleaded on Monday was $4.03 per gallon, the highest the state has seen in the last five years.

And the price in Idaho is far from the highest the state has ever seen. That was in July 2008, when drivers paid $4.16 for a gallon of gas.

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