As average gasoline prices have moved back above $3 a gallon in Florida, a tech company that monitors the fuel industry foresees prices above $4 a gallon in 2023.
The Boston-based GasBuddy, in an annual outlook released Wednesday, predicted that pump prices will peak at an average of $4.25 to $4.65 a gallon in Miami, $4.15 to $4.55 in Orlando and $4.10 to $4.45 in Tampa.
The peaks, barring unexpected changes, likely would happen in the summer, followed by “normal seasonal fluctuations” with prices falling after Labor Day. GasBuddy forecast the national average will be back down to about $3.17 before the start of 2024.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded Thursday in Florida was $3.12, while the national average was $3.16, according to the AAA auto club.
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Average prices hit $5 nationally and $4.89 in Florida in June before steadily declining through much of the rest of the year. Prices have started to rise this week after dipping below an average of $3 in Florida.
Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy head of petroleum analysis, said in the report it is “highly improbable” for a repeat of 2022, but “storm clouds” remain.
“2023 is not going to be a cakewalk for motorists. It could be expensive,” De Haan said. “The national average could breach $4 a gallon as early as May — and that’s something that could last through much of the summer driving season.”
In the forecast, gas prices nationally could fall under $3 a gallon in February, climb to $3.99 by June, remain over $3.80 during the summer and drop as the year comes to an end.
GasBuddy’s forecast doesn’t assume “a severe recession,” but that “some level of economic reset will limit oil demand.” It cited uncertainty from China easing COVID-19 mandates, OPEC trying to balance oil markets by cutting oil production and Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine.
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“The East Coast remains highly susceptible to Russia’s war on Ukraine, as European countries seek out supplies of oil and refined products from elsewhere, putting upward pressure on prices on the East Coast,” the report said.
Other “unscheduled obstacles” could include pipeline shutdowns and weather issues, such as hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
For the year, the national average is expected to be $3.49 a gallon, down from a $3.96 average in 2022.
At that rate, the average American household is expected to spend $2,471 on gas in 2023, down from $2,748 in 2022.
GasBuddy, which acknowledges its forecast isn’t gospel, predicted the national average would be $3.99 this year, its lowest margin of error since first making an annual forecast in 2012.
The company said its “forecast has been above the actual outcome eight of 10 years, with just two years, 2018 and 2021, in which the forecast was lower than the actual outcome.”
GasBuddy noted prices are subject to seasonal increases and decreases tied to refinery maintenance in the spring and fall and the Clean Air Act, which has been slowly eliminating some pollutants from fuels.
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Spring maintenance comes as refineries deplete their inventory of winter-blend gasoline for a more-expensive summer blend. Over the past decade, average price increases of 35 cents to 85 cents have been attributed to the change.
Florida’s average unleaded price sat just below $3 a gallon for most of the Christmas weekend. The West Palm Beach area had the highest average price Thursday at $3.29 a gallon, while the Panama City area had the lowest average at $2.92.