Hitting the road? Gas prices haven’t been this high in 7 years

By Tim Darnell

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — Memorial Day weekend gasoline prices are at their highest level in seven years as American motorists hit the road for what experts are calling “revenge travel.”

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has increased by a penny since Monday, to $3.04, according to AAA. Memorial Day weekend prices have not been this high since 2014, when they averaged $3.65 a gallon. The average is 17 cents more than last month and $1.12 more expensive than last year.

“The industry is referring to it as ‘revenge travel,’” AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee said. “People have more discretionary income, they’ve got a lot of PTO, or paid time off, saved up, so they’re going to take more trips and spend more money.”

AAA estimates 37 million Americans will travel by car and plane on Memorial Day weekend. That’s up 60% from last year, when many were cautious about the pandemic and stayed home. But it is still 13% below pre-pandemic travel levels reached during 2019′s Memorial Day weekend.

While the Colonial Pipeline is back in operation and deliveries are being made, some stations in the Southeast continue to experience supply strain. This is likely to extend into the holiday weekend, but motorists will be able to fill up.

“Holiday road trippers may come across some gas stations with low fuel supply in popular travel destinations, like beaches, mountains or national parks. However, markets are not expected to be fuel-less, like we saw in the wake of the pipeline shutdown,” McGee said.

Earlier this month, hackers locked up the Georgia-based company’s computer systems. The hackers didn’t take control of pipeline operations, but the company shut it down to prevent malware from affecting industrial control systems. Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount later said he approved paying more than $4 million to the Russian-based hackers who cyberattacked his company because “it was the right thing to do for the country.”

Colonial is now the target of a lawsuit alleging it employed lax cybersecurity measures that left it vulnerable to such an attack.

AAA is also citing new data from the Energy Information Administration showing gas demand increased from 9.22 million barrels per day to 9.58 million last week. Higher demand may contribute to fluctuating pump prices through the holiday.

Some quick stats from AAA:

— The nation’s top 10 largest weekly changes: Hawaii (+4 cents), Indiana (-4 cents), California (+3 cents), Oregon (+3 cents), Colorado (+3 cents), Maryland (−3 cents), Georgia (−3 cents), Oklahoma (−3 cents), Illinois (−3 cents) and Wisconsin (−2 cents).

— The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets: Louisiana ($2.71), Mississippi ($2.71), Missouri ($2.73), Texas ($2.74), Oklahoma ($2.75), Arkansas ($2.76), Kansas ($2.83), Minnesota ($2.83), Alabama ($2.83) and North Dakota ($2.84).

— Since last Thursday, these 10 states have seen the largest changes in their averages: Michigan (+9 cents), Ohio (+5 cents), Hawaii (+4 cents), Oklahoma (-4 cents), Indiana (+3 cents), Alaska (+3 cents), Texas (-3 cents), Georgia (-3 cents), North Carolina (-3 cents) and Maryland (-3 cents).

AAA recommends filling up the gas tank before arriving at vacation destinations because gasoline prices can be higher around popular tourist spots.