Missoula posted a dubious landmark on Friday when KGVO first reported that $5.00 per gallon for regular unleaded gas had reached the city.

Now, Patrick DeHaan with Gas Buddy says that level will only be a jumping off point for summer commuters and travelers in Montana, primarily due to the lingering aftereffects of the March fire and explosion at the Exxon refinery in Billings.

“Average gas prices across Montana have jumped by about 27 cents a gallon in the last week, and that statewide average is now $4.92 a gallon, and that's up from $4.70 a week ago,” he said. “Gas prices in Missoula now some stations all the way up to $4.99. Some of them are just a little bit beyond that at $5.04. Some stations are still at $4.89, such as the Costco in Missoula, but prices are going up. Plus, inventories across the Rocky Mountains have plummeted due to that Exxon Mobil refinery fire in Billings.”

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DeHaan said refineries are the choke point when it comes to supplies of gas and diesel.

“Combined with the rise in demand that we've been seeing here as the summer has gotten underway, we've seen refineries continue to tighten week after week and it's really become a very big and ominous sign,” he said. “That supply could be even tighter here in the weeks ahead if that refinery (in Billings) isn't able to get back online after repairs anytime soon.”

DeHaan acknowledged the fact that many households are finding themselves financing their travels via their credit cards.

“There’s not much meaningful improvement coming anytime soon,” he said. “I'm afraid things could get much worse if there are further refinery outages or major hurricanes. We can see the situation worsen before it gets any better. A lot of Americans to your point are financing the high price of gasoline on credit cards and that is certainly going to come back to roost down the road, but for now, Americans are trying to get out and enjoy the summer.”

DeHaan said arguments that President Biden should immediately reauthorize the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as authorize more drilling for oil are simply not realistic.

“Certainly, it’s vastly overstated,” he said. “Even if all of that came online tomorrow, even if the Keystone was built, that doesn't mean Canada has more oil to put into the pipeline. So I do think that every day that goes lost in terms of Biden changing his policies is certainly one we can further blame on the administration moving forward. But for now, much the reason why we're here is not going to be quickly solved, even if President Biden was to take some drastic moves, but they certainly would help the future of prices down the line in the next few years.”

Click here to see current gas prices in Missoula and Montana.

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