By Makenzie O'Keefe

DENVER (CBS4)– Gas prices continue to rise across the nation and in the state. According to AAA Colorado, the average price for a gallon of gas in Colorado is $3.51 for regular fuel, while the national average is $3.39.

(credit: CBS)

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“The prices softened as we anticipated they would from the summer driving season,” explained Skyler McKinley with AAA Colorado. “They’ve softened as we switched over to the winter blend, but they haven’t softened to the degree we would normally see at this time of year.”

Data shows that gas now costs $1.22 per gallon more than it did a year ago. However, McKinley said we have to take into account that fewer people were on the roads this time last year due to the pandemic.

“If you take 2020 and 2021 with low prices artificially and high prices artificially and average them together, it would have been an average few years of gas prices,” he explained.

AAA reports nationally, the pump price has gone up every day in the past 27 days, adding approximately 20 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas. The industry experts are forecasting prices to remain high.

(credit: CBS)

“First of all, demand is back. It was high demand summer travel season but that will continue through the year-end because folks are tired of being couped up,” McKinley said. “They are ready to travel, they’re ready to drive, they’re ready to get on jet planes, to get on cruise ships. All of which uses crude oil to refine the gas they use, which pushes prices up.”

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The pandemic has also had an impact on prices.

“U.S. stockpiles are at one of their lowest points in 5 years,” McKinley said. “This again is a function of production, as last year there just wasn’t a lot of reason to produce crude oil that people weren’t going to use.”

McKinley also said a natural gas shortage in Europe and coal shortage in China are creating higher demand for crude oil, impacting prices.

While drivers don’t love to see the current prices at the pump, industry experts say it doesn’t appear to be deterring them from driving.

“Higher gas prices tend to be an indicator of a recovering economy to the extent of people wanting to get out there and go on vacation, go skiing, fly to Mexico,” McKinley said. “All of those choices drive the price of crude oil up, the price of gas up. People wouldn’t be making those economic decisions if they weren’t confident with where we were heading.”

(credit: CBS)

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As of Monday morning, the lowest gas price found in the Denver metro area according to was $2.89 at the Murphy Express in Littleton. The highest price was $3.69 at a few stations in downtown Denver. The states with the highest gas prices according to AAA include California $4.54, Hawaii $4.26, Nevada $3.92, Washington $3.87.

Makenzie O'Keefe