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Pittsburgh region not thankful for higher gas prices

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 11:26 a.m.
Bill Cousins of Parks Township fills his gas tank at the Honey Bear Sunoco gas station along Route 356 in Kiski Township on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Folks in the Pittsburgh region gassing up for Thanksgiving travel will be paying much more for a gallon of gas than the rest of the country.

As of Monday afternoon, the average price of a gallon of gas around the region was $3.64 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com — a website that tracks gas prices. That's more than 20 cents higher than the national average price of $3.34 per gallon.

Kent Moors, a political science professor at Duquesne University who heads The Energy Policy Research Group, said the region has a couple of unique circumstances that cause its gas prices to be so much higher than the national average.

“First, it's how high the taxes on gas are in the state,” he said of the almost 31 cents the state adds to every gallon of gas — one of the highest gas taxes in the country. “Secondly, it's the distance that Western Pennsylvania is away from refineries.

“Western Pennsylvania is farther from a refinery than anywhere else in the country,” Moors said. “There's just insufficient refining capacity to help the area.”

The Energy Policy Research Group is a research unit that provides data and analysis about current energy policy.

According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of gas has fallen 40 cents since October. But the Pittsburgh area has experienced only about half that drop.

Moors said the closing of three refineries in the eastern part of the state added to Western Pennsylvania's problems but could help in the long term.

“As we start to get gas from the Midwest, we could see prices lower a bit,” he said. “They are able to obtain certain synthetic oils from Canada that are able to be discounted.

“The more we start moving to Midwestern refineries, it will improve retail.”

Other than getting gas from Midwestern refineries, there isn't much that can be done to lower the price of gas in the Pittsburgh region, Moors said.

“We're kind of stuck in a geographic anomaly,” he said.

AAA estimates that about 39 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home by car for the holiday from Wednesday to Sunday.

For folks planning to leave the state for the holiday, they may want to wait to cross the border before filling up. In Cleveland, an average gallon of gas is selling for $3.45. Gas is going for $3.36 a gallon in Baltimore, and $3.52 a gallon in Wheeling.

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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