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Highest gas prices of 2021 cast shadow over holiday weekend road trips

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(NEW YORK) — The average price of gas in the U.S. — $3.10 as of Tuesday, according to the American Automobile Association — is the highest so far in 2021 and there are no indicators it will fall ahead of the holiday weekend.

Spiking global demand for crude oil as the pandemic eases is pushing up gas prices, as well as surging demand for air and road travel as more Americans become vaccinated. Meanwhile, limited but concerning reports of gas outages at stations across the country related to delivery issues are also ringing alarm bells for travelers looking to hit the road this weekend.

Presently, gas outages should not be cause for widespread concern, according to Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at the fuel-tracking site GasBuddy.

“So far, the problem is very limited and random in nature,” DeHaan told ABC News, adding that stations and truckers are running behind schedule on fuel deliveries “to a very few amount of stations.”

“Most motorists won’t even notice this, but as demand ramps up the nation needs hundreds more tanker truck drivers just from last year, in addition to the long-term squeeze we’ve seen,” he added.

As most Americans have varied enough dates and times that they plan to hit the road, DeHaan said he doesn’t expect shortages to be a major issue for drivers this weekend though they “could be something that a few notice.”

“The good news is there’s plenty of gasoline — the EIA [Energy Information Administration] reported last week that fuel production reached a staggering 10.3 million barrels of gasoline per day — amongst the highest I’ve recently seen and just below the record of 10.7,” he added. “There’s plenty of fuel, but, like many industries are dealing with right now, there remains a labor shortage and for the fuels industry, it’s manifesting itself in stations that can’t stay caught up on gasoline.”

Meanwhile, AAA forecasts a record-breaking 43.6 million Americans will hit the road for travel from Thursday to Monday.

This influx of travelers comes as nearly 90% of U.S. gas stations are selling regular unleaded gas for $2.75 per gallon or more, according to Jeanette McGee, a spokesperson for AAA. McGee added in a statement that motorists will pay the most to fill up this July 4 weekend since 2014.

States that saw the largest weekly price increases, according to data compiled by AAA, include Utah (12 cents per gallon), Indiana (11 cents) as well as Oregon and Washington (each 9 cents).

Separately, McGee told ABC News that major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco will see traffic three to five times higher than on a typical day, and urged drivers to avoid traveling at peak hours. She recommends avoiding travel between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and to drive earlier in the day on Monday.

Gas prices have been climbing steadily since the beginning of the year. Tuesday’s national average of $3.10 per gallon is some 2 cents more expensive than the average last week, 5 cents more expensive than last month, and 92 cents more expensive than the average price at the same time last year.

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