The average price for a gallon of gasoline in Montana was $2.78 as of Thursday, an increase of 22 cents from a month ago but still better than the $3.59 it cost this time last year.
The state’s gasoline is more expensive than many states in the South, but cheaper than many coastal states. In California, the average price is $3.46 a gallon.
Missoula gas prices dropped below $2 a gallon back in January, but have been climbing since.
Summer always marks the beginning of an increase in both the number of drivers on the road and the distances they travel, so price increases this time of year are generally expected.
Summer fuel blends have decreased volatility to reduce evaporation, and cost more to produce. Those costs are inevitably passed on to consumers.
In addition, there was a decline in gas inventory over the winter and spring and reduced refinery output. That, too, increased the price per gallon nationwide from its January low point.
And prices could go even higher in some states, albeit not Montana.
According to GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHann, more and more state governments are looking at raising taxes on gasoline because consumers are saving so much at the pump compared to 2014 fuel prices.
“Since the beginning of the year, we anticipated significant savings at the pump for consumers, since most of us are paying nearly $1 less per gallon compared to 2014 fuel prices,” DeHaan said Thursday. “For the average motorist, that represents savings of about $700 over the course of the year.
"But unfortunately, more state politicians consider this an opportunity to increase gas taxes for a long menu of needs, hoping that consumers either won’t know, or won’t mind as much as they might have if retail prices were at year-ago levels."
This year, Iowa, North Carolina and Indiana have all increased taxes on gasoline, and California will increase the diesel excise tax by 13 cents a gallon on July 1. Georgia is expected to increase fuel taxes as well.
Here in Montana, efforts to raise the gas tax stalled during the 2015 Legislature. Rep. Nancy Wilson, D-Missoula, introduced a bill in to raise the state’s gas tax by a nickel a gallon. The proceeds would have been divided between local streets and roads, public transportation and DUI task forces.
The bill didn’t make it out of the House Transportation Committee, but it was Wilson’s second attempt at raising the gas tax. Her bill would have raised about $25 million.
Montana hasn’t raised the state tax on gasoline since 1994, and the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in about the same number of years.
The current Montana tax is 27 cents per gallon, while the federal tax adds 18.4 cents per gallon.