It’s a typical day in Houston with thousands of cars on the roads. Some drivers fill up for gas and ask themselves, why do prices keep going up? Andy Lipow runs an oil consulting firm in Houston and says the answer begins with crude — the stuff gas is made from.
“Crude oil prices have risen fifteen to twenty percent in the last ten days and here we are still in the middle of winter.”
There are different types of crude oil depending on what part of the world it came from. That’s one factor in the price of gas. Another is the time of year. Cars use different gas in the winter than in the summer. The summer blend is more expensive.
“Refiners make different formulations so that your car will start in cold weather, or conversely, not have vapor lock in hot weather. In the winter time, if had summer grade gasoline and it was really cold when you put your foot down on the pedal, you actually wouldn’t get many vapors in your cylinder to start the ignition process.”
The price of gas also varies depending on what part of the country you’re in.
“The cheapest states to buy gasoline in the country are Wyoming and South Carolina because they have the cheapest formulation of gas and very low state and federal taxes.”
Lipow says gas made for rural areas is different and costs less than gas made for large metropolitan cities.
“In the metropolitan area, we’re trying to reduce smog, which is a different formulation of gasoline than might be used in a rural area, such as Wyoming, Nebraska or elsewhere in the Midwest.”
Right down the street from the University of Houston there are two gas stations: a Shell and a Phillips. They both have gas for 3.35 per gallon. But with everything going on in the Middle East, many believe that price will climb even higher.
California has the highest prices in the country because their laws require a gas blend that costs more and they pay twenty cents more per gallon in taxes than other states like Texas. The average price per gallon there is 3.82.