HNN Staff

West Virginia gas prices are heading upward as motorists ring in 2011. Gas prices across the region increased seven cents this week to average $3.148 per gallon.

Crude oil prices dropped 51 cents on the day, but still hung on to the $90 range settling at $91.00 Monday at the close of formal trading on the NYMEX. Market activity was slightly more tempered as the Northeast dug out from a crippling winter storm that limited the ability of the trading complex to function in New York City. Despite the weather, it was the third day in a row that crude held above the $90 mark.

While many Americans spent last week preparing for the holiday weekend, both crude and gasoline prices spent the week running up to new multi-year highs. Crude prices burst through the $90 per-barrel price before settling at a 2-year high of $91.51 on December 23rd. High crude prices, buoyed by increasing global demand, have dragged retail gasoline prices higher, this week seeing a $3 national average price at the pump. The US had last seen this high an average just before Halloween in 2008.

With crude prices already trending upward on the week, Wednesday’s Department of Energy report showed a larger than expected crude draw from inventories that provided prices with further encouragement. The report noted a 5.3-million barrel draw in crude oil which lowered total domestic stocks to 340.7-million barrels. DOE also provided statistics that showed back-to-back weeks of demand over 20-million barrels per day for the first time since January 2009. With holiday travel likely to keep demand at this level in this week’s report, the stage is set for the first three consecutive week period of 20-million barrel per-day consumption since August 2008. A higher domestic demand for crude is seen as an indicator of positive strength in the US economy. While this news may reflect some level of optimism for the economy, the upward pressure on prices is not necessarily good news for consumers. At the same time, motorists do appear to be taking to the roads in increasing numbers.

In a separate report, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released statistics showing both month-on-month and year-on-year increases in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This reinforced separate reports from fuel marketers, which pointed to a strong start to the fourth quarter sales volume.

The current national retail average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline is $3.04, up six cents from a week ago, 19 cents from a month ago, and 44 cents from a year ago. This marked the first time that the US has ever nationally spent Christmas Eve with a $3.00 or greater per gallon price at the pump.

This week’s average prices: West Virginia Average    $3.148
Average price during the week of December 21, 2010 $3.076
Average price during the week of December 29, 2009 $2.662

The following is a list of the average price of unleaded self-serve gasoline in various areas:

3.170    Bridgeport
3.178    Clarksburg
3.175    Huntington
3.131    Martinsburg
3.155    Morgantown
3.173    Parkersburg
3.090    Weirton
3.117    Wheeling

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Kentucky servicing 2.5 million members.