Three reasons summer gasoline prices spike

More good news at the pump: U.S. drivers should expect to pay a full dollar a gallon less this summer compared to last summer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But at $2.45 a gallon that’s still 5 cents a gallon more than the national average for 2015 as a whole.

So just why do prices go up over the summer? HINT: It’s not just road trips.

Here’s three reasons:

#1: Clean Air Act. Back in 1995, the Reformulated Gasoline Program (RFG) was established through the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The Environmental Protection Agency started the RFG to reduce pollution and smog during the summer months. The summer-grade process removes less clean-burning butane from the blend and adds oxygenates, changes that raise the cost to produce thus making summer-blend fuel pricier at the pump.

#2: Transitional Period. In order to accomplish this change over, refiners must switch to the more expensive summer-grade gasoline before the May 1 compliance date to make for a smooth change from winter blend thus causing a limited supply and driving up the price. Essentially, the refineries shut down. By June 1, gasoline retailers must have the summer grade on site and ready to sell. The transitional period may not last long, but it causes enough of a hiccup in supply that it trickles down to the consumer with a few extra cents on the gallon.

#3: Roadtrips. As long as there are amber waves of grain between two shining seas, Americans from Baby Boomers to Millenials will continue to explore it. And with such cheerful gas price news, why wouldn’t parents grab the kiddos and head off for a wild family adventure? But the increased demand to zig-zag across the nation definitely affects the supply.

Especially if one were to take the ultimate road trip created by data geek Randy Olson. In nine days, he figures without food stops or sleep, an entire 13,699 miles can be covered in 224 hours seeing most of the biggest tourist destinations. Of course, LEGO figures could save all that time and effort.

To get you in the travel mood, here’s some Spotify playlist inspiration.