It's the most asked question to GasBuddy analysts: when will we see peak gas prices? It's made to sound like an easy question that is remarkably difficult to know until you see markets crashing down, but we're starting to see clearer signs that we're closer to top.
Nationally, gas prices have slowed their rise in the last two days, and while they haven't begun a notable shift lower, past years lead me to believe that the rally that started in February is nearing its peak.
Oil prices have stumbled in the last two trading sessions, and are back under $100/bbl. While this factor alone isn't enough to call it, we've also seen wholesale gasoline prices below recent values. Add in that today is the first day that gasoline terminals must only supply the cleanest specification of summer gasoline, and that roll out is essentially complete. Now retail gasoline stations have until June 1 to pump only summer gasoline. The month time frame will give gas stations time to get rid of other spec gasoline and fuel up with fresh summer gasoline.
Also, many refineries have been successfully wrapping up their maintenance. While work continues at some refineries, there's been little "chatter" about major refinery issues. This supports the notion that refineries are getting back online and increasing production of summer gasoline.
While some may say we hit a peak in the national average two (or X days ago), we aren't ready yet to sound the 100% all clear. While there are many positives that led me to believe that we've peaked, there are cautions as well- as demand for gasoline rises as temperatures warm, a major refinery problem now could lead to prices continuing to rise, or at least regionally.
The West Coast will likely continue to see relief coming as wholesale prices have shed enough for me to believe that California has seen its peak price pass.
The rest of the nation may have already seen it or is close, so buckle up, we might be on our way down, as many signs point to, but give us a little more time to make that 100% call.