MITCHELL, S.D.—This year may not be great for motorists.
Several national reports anticipate the average price for gasoline will jump in 2018. According to GasBuddy, a company that connects drivers with real-time fuel prices, the yearly national average will rise 19 cents to $2.57 per gallon — the highest since 2014.
But one local station owner said drivers should anticipate only a minor increase in prices, and cold temperatures are to blame.
"When it's this cold out, there's more fuel consumption as people let their vehicles run and there's just a lot more pull on heating oil and a lot more pull on propane," said Tim Wiebelhaus, owner of two Sinclair gas stations in Mitchell. " ... Cold weather is definitely affecting what's going on right now."
GasBuddy released the information in its 2018 Fuel Price Outlook report, which estimates the nation's yearly gasoline bill will rise to $364.6 billion, approximately $25 billion higher than what motorists spent last year.
The company's report, released Wednesday, is on par with information released by AAA this week. AAA determined that 2018 has already kicked off with the most expensive average gas price in four years at $2.49 for the United States.
But motorists should not fret, said Jeanette Casselano, a spokesperson with AAA. The price increase is typical following a holiday season.
"Although prices at the pump shot up over the holidays, now that the holiday season is in the rearview mirror, motorists can expect gas prices to trend cheaper this month as we are likely to see a significant drop in gasoline demand," she said.
To Wiebelhaus, a lot of the reports are simply speculation of markets and commodity trades, and in Mitchell, prices are remaining fairly consistent.
Recent small swells in prices can be blamed on demand, Wiebelhaus said.
"Right now I don't see a lot of increase. I'm not saying it can't happen. It certainly can. It could turn around tomorrow and I would be no wiser. But for right now, we're seeing a little uptick in the pricing. And a lot of that is by demand."
GasBuddy's report found that metro areas of the country where demand is highest — such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City — will likely see prices eclipse $3 per gallon in 2018. No record-breaking prices are anticipated, and most of the country will see prices peak at just under $3 per gallon.
But Wiebelhaus stands firm that fuel prices will not jump greatly in 2018.
"You're going to see the normal increases that happen during the summer," he said. "And a lot of that, quite honestly, is changing the formulation in gas."