After hitting a seven-year low last month, gas prices are on the rise in Maine and across the nation.

“The cheapest gas prices of the year are now solidly behind us as the national average will soon again hit $2,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior analyst for GasBuddy.com.

The U.S. average price per gallon jumped by 12 cents this week to $1.94 – the biggest increase in a year, according to data released Monday by GasBuddy, which tracks fuel prices nationwide. The average price in Maine was up 11 cents from a week ago, reaching $1.91 on Monday. That is 14 cents higher than in late February.

But, while $2-a-gallon gas may be right around the corner, the end of relatively cheap fuel is still believed to be far down the road. Gas prices are still 50 cents per gallon less than a year ago, and summertime gas prices this year are expected to be the lowest in a decade.

Deanna Mitchell of Westbrook holds her money out the window as Westbrook Auto Center owner Tom Allard puts gas in her tank.

Deanna Mitchell of Westbrook holds her money out the window as Westbrook Auto Center owner Tom Allard puts gas in her tank. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The increase during the past few weeks has more to do with seasonal factors than with the global price of oil or anything else, said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service. And prices will drop again in the fall, Kloza said.

“This is not a relentless march to the next fuel apocalypse,” he said. “We’re in a cheap environment and that environment is going to stay for a while.”

That is not to say that Mainers will see the average price at $1.77 again for a while. When gas prices do come down again in the fall, Kloza said, he doesn’t expect them to get quite as low as they did last month. That may not happen again for another five to 10 years, he said.

Source: GasBuddy.com weekly reports
Interactive: Christian MilNeil

After generally declining since last June, gasoline prices bottomed out nationwide in the middle of February. It happened about 10 days later in Maine when the price hit $1.77 a gallon. Since then, prices have risen to what they were in January.

Gasoline prices typically begin to rise at this time of year, when demand increases and refineries conduct seasonal maintenance, according to a report issued by AAA on Monday.

Gasoline isn’t the only petroleum product getting more expensive. The price of heating oil also has risen in the past week, the first weekly increase since last fall, according to state data to be released Tuesday.

The statewide average price had dropped to a low of $1.68 as of March 7, but rose to $1.72 as of March 14, according to the Governor’s Energy Office. Mainers were spending about $1 more per gallon of heating oil at this time last year.

The increase in prices at the gas pump comes as no surprise to Deanna Mitchell, 73, who filled up at the Westbrook Service Center on Route 25 on Monday.

“Of course, it’s summertime,” she said.

Gas prices, however, don’t affect how much Mitchell travels, she said. She spends the same amount of time in her car no matter what and she’s appreciated the prices of late.

Motorists in Maine and nationwide are paying more than $1.50 less than they did in 2014 and 2013, charts from the AAA report and on GasBuddy.com showed.

Steven Allard talks about the sudden rise in gas prices while filling up at the Westbrook Auto Center.

Steven Allard talks about the sudden rise in gas prices while filling up at the Westbrook Auto Center. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

That’s something Steven Allard, 58, of Westbrook can recognize.

“$1.89? I’ll take it,” he said, while an attendant pumped gas into his 1995 GMC Sierra – a truck that doesn’t get great gas mileage. When prices are high, he said, he switches over to a Ford Ranger he owns. But, right now, it doesn’t make a difference.

“Even if it’s up a little bit, it’s a lot less than it was two years ago,” he said.

Low gas prices are one of the factors that made last year the busiest ever on the Maine Turnpike with 79.5 million vehicle transactions, surpassing the previous record set in 2007 by 3 million.

A recovering economy spurring the return of commercial truck traffic and mild winter weather making the highway more traversable are the other likely causes of the traffic increase, said Erin Courtney, spokeswoman for the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Regardless of the reason, the uptick has continued into this year with 5.5 million vehicle transactions for January, representing an increase of more than 11 percent from the previous year and more traffic than the turnpike has seen in the first month of any year since at least 2007.

A plan to increase oil production in Iran has kept oil prices low and, as long as supply continues to outpace demand, as predicted, gas prices will come back down after the driving season, according to the AAA report.

However, the market means less money in general is being spent on finding new oil supplies, Kloza said. And, five years from now, he said, “that comes back to haunt you.”

DeHaan, at GasBuddy, said there has been an increase in crude oil prices, but global supplies are still high. The price of a barrel of crude oil was $37.18 on Monday, up from a low of $26.21 on Feb. 11, the lowest it had been since 2003.

“The current upward trend is an unfortunate one that we witness every year, but the sudden jolt this time around has been enhanced by a 45 percent jump in the price of crude oil in the last month,” he said. “The large jump in crude oil prices comes amidst record oil inventories, yet it’s the mere threat that oil supply could be slashed from OPEC and non-OPEC countries at the same time oil demand is growing (that is) driving prices higher.”