Gas Madness! Why Prices Rise in March and April

March Madness not only refers to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but also gas prices in the U.S.

"We are transitioning to cleaner burning, more expensive summer gasoline that is required by the EPA," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

While some may worry political tensions overseas are the driving force behind higher gas prices, DeHaan said the real reason lies right here in the United States.

"March/April is when most refineries that carry out maintenance during the year are doing their maintenance," DeHaan said. "As those refineries are partially shut down to prepare their plants for summer, we are having lower production of gasoline take place and that results in tighter supply."

DeHaan said demand for gas is much higher during the summer, which puts more pressure on refineries as they transition to summer blends. He also said the refineries aren't exactly up-to-date in terms of technology and efficiency.

"We haven't built a new refinery in decades," DeHaan said. "These refineries are tremendously complex so restarting the master maintenance can be a bit tedious, they can be a bit fickle.

Which means any issue at a refinery could affect the price of gas, even if the price of oil remains steady.

"There's a huge road block making the connection between oil and gas prices and that's the refinery," DeHaan said. "As refineries are in the peak maintenance season any sort of kink or any unexpected issue can result in higher prices."

DeHaan said prices will begin to level out and drop off in the month of June.


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