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- This claim accurately reflects information released by AAA on Oct. 25.
- Experts say gas prices fluctuate constantly, so it's possible that some other state could have a larger weekly increase depending on the hours or days measured.
- Despite the hike in North Carolina, the state's average price is still several cents lower than the national average.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis says his state was recently the hardest-hit by rising gas prices.
"Gas in North Carolina increased 14 cents per gallon this past week, the highest in the nation," Tillis tweeted on Oct. 26.
Because of the way Tillis’ tweet is phrased, it could be interpreted a couple ways. Did he mean North Carolina’s increase was the highest in the nation? Or that the state’s gas price was the highest in the nation?
A Tillis spokesperson told PolitiFact the senator’s tweet was meant to compare North Carolina’s price increase to those in other states. And he said it’s based on data from AAA, one of the largest vehicle and travel organizations in the country.
Experts told PolitiFact that North Carolina’s gas situation isn’t necessarily worse than other states. But Tillis’ tweet appears to accurately reflect price fluctuations over the previous seven days.
AAA tracks gas prices across America to see how they compare to previous weeks, months, and years. The group announced in an Oct. 25 press release that the national average price for a gallon of gasoline had risen six cents since Oct. 18 to hit $3.38 for a gallon of unleaded.
AAA singled out North Carolina and Florida as states that experienced the largest increase in gas prices, 14 cents.
North Carolina’s average price increase between Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 was also the largest of any state tracked by GasBuddy.com, which collects data from more than 100,000 stations across the country.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said the average gas price in North Carolina rose 15 cents per gallon. While groups such as AAA capture accurate data, De Haan noted that the weekly snapshots can quickly become outdated.
"Gas prices fluctuate throughout the course of the day," he said. "Just like the stock market constantly moves, gas prices constantly move."
Thus, other snapshots can yield different results, De Haan said. For example, De Haan said GasBuddy data from Oct. 27 showed North Carolina with the 11th-largest price increase over the most recent seven days, and the third-largest increase over the previous month.
"Yes, over the last month North Carolina has seen one of the biggest increases in average prices. Basically everyone, North Carolina included, has seen a sharp uptick in prices," De Haan said.
"The cost of crude oil, a global commodity, accounts for more than 50% of the price at the pump," Andrew Gross, AAA’s public relations manager, told PolitiFact NC in an email. He added that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, known as OPEC, "still isn't producing at pre-pandemic levels, and it is leading to the higher cost."
Experts have told PolitiFact and PolitiFact North Carolina that the increase isn’t tied to presidential policies. "The bulk of what we’re dealing with is COVID-related. It’s not presidential policy. If we didn’t have covid, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now talking about $3 gas," De Haan said.
Why did North Carolina, of all states, have the largest price increase over the course of last week? The answer isn’t clear.
AAA didn’t identify a specific cause for North Carolina’s increase in its report or in emails with PolitiFact NC. A state’s proximity to a major fuel pipeline can play a role in a state’s gas prices, Gross said. "And with a shortage of drivers, gas stations may be accounting for higher transportation costs."
Gross also noted that North Carolina still pays "quite a bit less" for gas than the average national price. North Carolinians on average paid $3.25 per gallon on Oct. 27, while the national average was $3.39 per gallon.
Anna Mikulska, a nonresident fellow in energy studies for the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the surge is related to lingering issues at the Colonial Pipeline. She said the pipeline, which was hacked this May, delivers 75% of North Carolina’s fuel.
De Haan suggested states may simply be adjusting market conditions at different speeds. "Everyone is going to get to the same spot, some states are just going to get there faster," he said.
Tillis tweeted that "gas in North Carolina increased 14 cents per gallon this past week, the highest in the nation."
That appears to be accurate, according to AAA and GasBuddy data.
Experts clarified that North Carolina’s gas situation, overall, isn’t the worst in the country. They also warned that gas prices can change rapidly, so weekly snapshots may not always represent the latest fluctuations across the country.
The statement is accurate but could use additional information. We rate it Mostly True.
Tweet by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis on Oct. 26, 2021.
Email exchange with Adam Webb, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.
Email exchange with Andrew Gross, AAA’s public relations manager.
Phone interview with Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.com.
Email exchange with Anna Mikulska, a nonresident fellow in energy studies for the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Story by PolitiFact, "Are gas prices going up? And is it Joe Biden’s fault?" posted March 2, 2021.
Story by WRAL, "Gas prices continue to rise in North Carolina," posted Oct. 15, 2021.
Story by the New York Post, "Colonial Pipeline communication system down a week after cyberattack," posted May 18, 2021.
Story by Business Insider, "3 reasons why gas prices are so high right now," posted Oct. 29, 2021.
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