Gas prices have been soaring across Northwest Indiana, rising by 12.5 cents per gallon in the Gary metro since last week, according to the gas price tracker GasBuddy.com.
The price of filling up a tank has increased by 19.7 cents per gallon over the last month. The average price of $3.08 per gallon in the Gary metro, which encompasses most of Northwest Indiana, is 22.8 cents per gallon higher than a year ago, with the cheapest gas at $2.80 per gallon.
Nationally, the average price of gasoline has risen by 67 cents per gallon since New Year's Day, which is the second largest rise in the last decade.
Gas prices have been rising for a number of reasons, including rising crude oil prices, decreases in production at Midwestern refineries during the spring maintenance season and the switch to the more expensive summer blend that burns cleaner to reduce emissions during the busy travel season, said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA. But the biggest reason for the spike is that the weather is warming up and people are driving more, including by going on road trips.
"What we've been seeing is a seasonal increase," he said. "Coming out of a long winter, more people are on the road. It's being driven by the demand side."
Some refineries are operating at lesser capacity because of planned maintenance projects and unforeseen issues, Jarmusz said. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries also has been holding back on production. But the seasonal increase in driving is what's causing most of the spike, he said.
"We're expecting a strong travel season," he said. "There are economic factors and the desire to travel, so we foresee a lot of road trips."
Despite the big run-up in gas prices, Jarmusz said they were not yet high enough to where people would become price-sensitive and drive less.
Nationally, gas prices rose 1.3 cents per gallon over the past week to $2.89 per gallon, which is 14.3 cents higher than a year ago, according to GasBuddy. Gas prices across the Chicago metro rose 3.6 cents per gallon to an average $3.24 per gallon.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said gas prices "may be close to peaking for the time being" after having shot up by the highest amount since 2011 this year.
“It’s been a rough spring at the pump with prices advancing at a maddening pace and multi-year highs happening in more places than I can count on two hands,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic now that the worst is behind us and relief is on the horizon for nearly every area in the country. Motorists shouldn’t get too impatient — this won’t happen overnight — but as stations begin to fill their tanks with slightly cheaper gasoline, they’ll begin to pass the savings on, just in time for Memorial Day and beyond.”