Gas prices in Maryland have risen 18 cents in the past month and 31 cents in the last year. (Barbara Taylor / Baltimore Sun video)
Roscoe Scott drives about 50 miles from his home in East Baltimore to Prince George's County a few times a week to take care of his 76-year-old mother and run errands for her.
With the price of gasoline up 18 cents in the last month, the 56-year-old has cut back on how much he puts in his tank at a time. He stopped the pump at around $10 at the Royal Farms gas station on Russell Street one morning last week.
"I'm getting less gas," Scott said. "If it were lower, I'd fill it up."
After a few years of regular gasoline prices averaging below $2.50 a gallon, higher prices are back this year and continuing to rise. Gas cost an average of $2.72 per gallon in Maryland on Sunday, 31 cents more than this time last year and the highest it's been since 2014, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
In pursuit of Maryland’s ambitious goal of 300,000 electric vehicles on the street by 2025, utility companies and other stakeholders are proposing to install a $104 million network of 24,000 charging stations across the state — which would be the second-largest in the country, after California’s.
Rising gas prices aren't unusual for this time of year, as the summer vacation season approaches and refineries transition to federally mandated summer-blend gasoline, which is more environmentally friendly, if more expensive, said Ragina Cooper Averella, a AAA spokeswoman.
"We typically see them go up a little this time a year, but they're up considerably," she said.
The national increase has outpaced the auto club's March projection that the national average would reach as high as $2.70, and the prices are the highest since the national average reached $2.81 in the summer of 2015, Averella said.
If prices continue to rise, consumers could face the highest prices this year since gasoline averaged well over $3 a gallon from 2011 to 2014. The increase also could burn through some of the gains people received from President Donald J. Trump's tax cuts, especially among lower-income consumers, who got smaller reductions.
Drivers are in for "a few more weeks of pain and increasing prices," said Patrick DeHaan, the Chicago-based head of petroleum analytics at GasBuddy, an app that helps consumers compare prices among local gas stations.
Oil prices are increasing globally, driven by a supply shortage and geopolitical tensions, DeHaan said. That plays a large role in rising prices at the pump.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, a group of 14 nations that coordinate their oil policies to regulate supply, cut production in recent months to drive up prices, he said. At the same time, unrest in Venezuela, one of OPEC's founding members and a key U.S. oil supplier, caused a recent drop in the South American nation's oil exports, he said.
"The drop in production in Venezuela was probably not expected by OPEC when it decided to cut oil production," DeHaan said. "They have seen a drastic drop."
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The price of domestic oil tracks with rising international oil prices. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil traded over $69 on Thursday, its highest price since December 2014. But the United States also is exporting record amounts of crude oil to other countries, DeHaan said.
Another factor is the escalating conflict in Syria, where the U.S. and its allies launched air strikes last week on research, storage and military targets to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a recent suspected chemical attack that killed 40 people near Damascus.
Still, DeHaan expects gas prices to level out by next month and, eventually, drop.
"Usually gas prices peak at some point in May," he said. "Looking at the oil aspect ... I don't know that it has much more room to rally."
Last year's national average started slipping after Memorial Day, he noted, and eventually reached its lowest level on the Fourth of July in 12 years.
"Generally speaking, gas prices decline for a good portion of the month of June," he said.
For Rokea McCullough, 29, of West Baltimore, that can't come soon enough.
McCullough, a mental health counselor, drives around the city every day visiting patients and carting around her son. She said she's spending about $50 per fill-up for her truck a couple of times a week.
"It's killing me," she said. "I remember when gas was a dollar-and-something a gallon."
As prices have risen, Ayana Malone, who lives in Hamilton, has opted to take the MARC train more often instead of driving more than an hour to her job as a special education administrator in Washington.
"I've been very curious as to why," she said, of the recent gas price increase. "It's odd that it's going up so sharply."
"It can rain heavy for three days, and they'll raise gas prices," he said.
James King, a trash truck driver who lives on Annapolis Road in Westport, said the city yard has its own pump, so he doesn't have to track the cost of the gas in his truck. But he can't fill up his Chrysler Pacifica there.
Gas prices tend to rise regardless, the 49-year-old said, but bombing Syria can't have helped.
"Every time something's going on, they raise our gas prices," King said.