Tri-Cities drivers are seeing sharp increases at the gas pump, according to the latest Fuel Gauge Report issued by AAA East Tennessee.
In Kingsport, unleaded fuel increased by 22 cents over three weeks - the highest of the three Tri-Cities reporting areas, said AAA public relations officer Don Lindsey.
By comparison, a AAA check of 32 stations in the metro Knoxville area showed price boards listing unleaded at $2.05 a gallon, an 11 cent increase over the same period.
Fueling stations are in a time of transition, Lindsey said, with cleaner-burning blends being used in the warmer, spring months, a process that Lindsey says station owners must compensate for with an increase at the pump.
"That tends to reduce gasoline supplies nationwide, so speculators are pushing current prices up," Lindsey said.
Unleaded in Kingsport was reported at $2.10 a gallon Thursday, a six cent increase from last week. The cost in Bristol was $2.09, also up six cents, while Johnson City had the lowest price in the Tri-Cities with unleaded at $2.07 a gallon.
As a whole, the Tri-Cities region has seen gas prices increase by an average of 17 cents in the past three weeks.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported large drops in gasoline and heating oil inventories on Thursday, but a big increase in crude oil stockpiles, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. crude inventories climbed by 3.7 million barrels to 327.6 million barrels in the week ending Feb. 16.
Gasoline inventories fell by 3.1 million barrels to 222.1 million barrels, and distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, fell by 5.0 million barrels to 128.3 million barrels. Analysts were expecting, on average, a modest rise in crude oil and gasoline inventories and a smaller drop in distillates.
Most of the drop in distillates was due to diminishing heating oil supplies, following several weeks of below-normal temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States. Distillate fuel demand was nearly 10 percent higher over the past four weeks than it was at the same point last year, the EIA said.