Gas prices heading up

Statewide average down from a month ago

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Gas prices in Colorado could rise as much as 10 cents a gallon through Labor Day, according to a AAA Colorado spokesperson.

Wave Dreher gave the estimate Thursday, but added that Colorado’s prices remain in the lower 20 percent of states in the nation.

Average gas prices in the Durango area were $3.52 a gallon for regular unleaded as of Wednesday, matching the statewide average. That represents a 4-cent decrease from a month ago when gas averaged $3.56. A year ago, the state average was $3.46.

Cortez Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dena Guttridge said that gas prices don’t seem to affect tourism in the area this time of year. Most tourists come from outside the U.S. and local gas prices are extremely low for them, she said, noting that many come from Europe or Australia.

“We should plan for a usual Labor Day weekend,” Guttridge said. She noted, however, that gas prices had spiked at one popular location. On Wednesday she observed City Market’s gas price at $3.48 a gallon. On Thursday, it was up to $3.56.

The national average is $3.71 a gallon. That represents at 30-cent increase in one month.

In the past few weeks, pipelines serving Wisconsin and Illinois ruptured, refineries were shut down unexpectedly because of equipment problems in Illinois and Indiana, and a blaze broke out at a refinery in Richmond, Calif.

The mountain and southern states generally have the cheapest prices. Nationally, Colorado has the 10th lowest gas prices.

South Carolina has the least expensive gas, averaging $3.41 a gallon. Arizona is second at $3.41.

New Mexico is fourth at $3.47. Utah is eighth at $3.50, and Wyoming is ninth at $3.51.

Prices could go higher if Middle East tensions rise, more refinery problems emerge or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico force oil drillers or refiners to shut down. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week said this could be a more active hurricane season than previously thought.

But analysts say that without those disruptions, gasoline will probably begin dropping after Labor Day as refiners switch to cheaper blends and drivers hit the road less often.

Dreher explained that the gas prices are updated daily on the website based on the previous day’s credit card gasoline purchases.

The AP contributed to this report.