National average at $2.93

Gas prices have jumped 12 cents over the past two weeks, and 6 cents since May 14, to put the national average at $2.93.

According to AAA, it is the highest price point going into the Memorial Day weekend since 2014 when the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded with 10 percent ethanol was $3.65.

The average price for a gallon of regular in Arkansas on Tuesday was $2.67 with the prices as low as $2.53 a gallon in Fort Smith. The average price in Oklahoma was $2.70 on Tuesday with prices as low as $2.39 a gallon in Durant and $2.60 in Spiro, according to GasBuddy.com.

The national average gas price going into Memorial Day weekend last year was $2.37 for a gallon of regular unleaded. It was $2.32 this week in 2016 and $2.74 in 2015.

AAA forecasts nearly 37 million travelers will hit the road for the holiday weekend. Compared to an average of the last three Memorial Day weekends, pump prices are nearly 50 cents more expensive and climbing, Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson, noted at the group’s website Monday.

“Trends are indicating that this summer is likely to bring the national average to at least $3 a gallon,” Casselano added.

There are already 14 states with an average price of $3 or more per gallon. For the week ending on May 11, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that gas stocks fell by approximately 200,000 barrels to 29.7 million barrels. Current inventory levels are 600,000 stronger than they were at the same time last year, however, with increasing imports helping to buoy inventories. Imports increased by 50,000 barrels to 117,000 barrels last week.

The South and Southeast continue to have the cheapest gas prices in the country, but prices are at least 50 cents more expensive than this time last year, the AAA Fuel Gauge Report noted.

Following the previous week’s 10-cent increase, Florida’s gas price average held steady on the week at $2.82. All other states in the Southern region see prices continue to climb with the start of the work week. Prices in New Mexico and Texas went up 8 cents; 7 cents in Georgia and Louisiana; 6 cents in Oklahoma, Arkansas and South Carolina.

“With a 1 million bbl (barrel) draw, the South and Southeast regions have dialed back on gasoline inventories for a third consecutive week,” AAA states. “Inventory levels fall to 78 million bbl – the lowest inventory level for this week in May since 2016.”

Oil prices edged higher last week following the release of EIA’s weekly petroleum report that showed total crude inventories dropped by 1.4 million barrels.

“If this week’s EIA report shows another inventory draw, we can expect crude prices to continue climbing,” AAA noted in its oil dynamics analysis. “Additionally, at 2.57 million barrels per day, crude exports last week saw the highest rate ever recorded by EIA. The new record rate was 690,000 barrels per day more than the previous week and 1.48 million barrels per day more than this time last year. The surge in exports is attributed to growth in domestic crude production and Congress and the Obama Administration lifting the 40-year crude export ban in 2015.”

Steady growth in crude exports from the U.S. “will likely put another spotlight on the crude reduction agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers, which is set to expire at the end of 2018, the AAA report adds.

“Amid strong global demand and reduced output from OPEC and its partners, including Russia, the U.S. has been able to sell more crude to foreign buyers,” AAA states.

Although the U.S. did not add any active oil rigs last week, according to Baker Hughes, Inc., the current total — 844 — is 124 more rigs than this time last year.

GasBuddy recomends at its website some tips to help save money on fuel. Although it may be too late in the week for this tip, a recent GasBuddy study shows that Thursday and Friday are the most expensive and busiest days to purchase gas.

“If you can fuel up on a Monday and then top off right before you leave, you can save yourself some money,” GasBuddy notes.

GasBuddy also recommends stocking up on road snacks before you leave the house, and driving slow.

“We know you’re anxious to get to your final destination but speeding and aggressive driving like hard braking and accelerating quickly really decrease your fuel efficiency and can eat up your gas and your budget,” GasBuddy states.