Chicago Gas Prices Reach All Time High
Average Local Pump Prices Beat Records Set In 2008
AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report lists the current average price of unleaded gasoline at just under 4.39 per gallon, with Chicagogasprices.com listing the average at $4.51 per gallon as of late Monday night–a price that puts Chicago in the number one spot for the nation’s most expensive city to purchase gas.
The previous high price for Chicago gasoline was set back in July of 2008 when AAA had a gallon of gas topping out at $4.34 and Chicagogasprices.com listing the record high at $4.35 per gallon.
Local gas prices have been rising steadily for the past few weeks, with the area surpassing the previous record this past weekend, according to both AAA and GasBuddy.com which operates ChicagoGasPrices.com.
The U.S. average price for gasoline is hovering around $3.95 per gallon, about 16 cents short of its record high of $4.11, again set in July, 2008.
What’s puzzling to experts and more astute drivers is that the cost for gas in Chicago is reaching record levels much faster than the rest of the nation. According to one expert, it’s California, Alaska and Hawaii which traditionally have the highest gas prices in the nation. The rate of increase for Chicagoland gas prices has been much steeper than anywhere else around the country.
In addition, back in the summer of 2008, the price for a barrel of oil was around $150, compared to the current price of $113 per barrel.
So, why is Chicago getting hit harder than any other part of the country?
“The Great Lakes region is getting hammered because of supply problems,” says Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com. “BP has indicated its facility is undergoing planned maintenance. Exxon’s refinery has issues too. That facility (Joliet) encountered unplanned problems Friday. Production is down in the Midwest. That’s the exact reason we’re seeing record prices.”
But both BP and Exxon Mobil disagree with DeHaan’s opinion.
“It’s simply not true,” says Exxon Mobil spokesperson Kevin Allexon. “The notion we have had outages and are shut down is not true.”
While Exxon Mobil’s Joliet facility did experience “minor operational issues that do not impact production” both late Thursday night and during the day Saturday, Allexon was steadfast stating, “Our production has not been impacted at all.”
BP spokesperson Scott Dean also disagreed with DeHaan’s explanation.
“You rarely shut down a refinery completely,” explained Dean. “Clearly, it’s (maintenance) a scheduled process. The refinery is producing all the time.”
Blame It On Taxes
AAA Chicago’s Beth Mosher blames a different culprit for Chicago’s record setting prices–taxes.
“Taxes have always been a problem,” says Mosher. “In Illinois we pay a percentage based sales tax (on gas) of 6.25%. When gas prices go higher, so does the amount of tax paid in gas prices.”
While gas taxes at every level of government has not changed in years locally, Mosher’s theory starts to carry more weight when you see gas prices in Indiana and Michigan, which also have percentage based gas taxes, flirting with record levels as well.
According to Mosher, Illinois and Indiana are both on pace to set new record gas price highs tomorrow. The average price in Illinois is just a penny shy of the $4.25 per gallon mark, and the Hoosier State is three cents below its all time high of $4.17.
But beyond typical state and federal taxes, Chicago drivers pay a local gas tax as well.
“Chicago is on of the very few major cities in the country that adds an added tax on gas,” says Mosher explaining that most U.S. drivers only pay state and federal fuel taxes. “Chicago and Cook County levy another 11 cents on top of that.”
But even more worrisome to area drivers may be that normally, gas prices usually don’t slow down until around Memorial Day.
DeHaan warns drivers will most likely continue to see increased pain at the pump.
“It’s a tough call,” says DeHaan. “But it’s likely we’ll see prices continue to go up.”