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Gas prices are spiking in Charlotte. Here’s how long the increases could last.

Prices at the pump began to spike in the Carolinas and the rest of the country this week after drone attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia last weekend spooked markets, according to AAA.

Drivers who paid $2.19 per gallon of regular unleaded gas at the Circle K in the 6500 block of Brookshire Boulevard in Charlotte on Monday paid $2.45 per gallon on Tuesday morning, a worker at the station told The Charlotte Observer.

That price already surpassed the 25-cent-a-gallon spike that AAA officials on Monday anticipated happening by the end of September.

“As expected, today Carolinians woke up to higher gas prices, but whether this increase will be a short or long-term trend will be determined by how quickly the facilities in Saudi Arabia can recover and get back online,” AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Tiffany Wright told The Charlotte Observer in an email Tuesday morning.

Charlotte’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $2.32 Tuesday — a 3-cent increase overnight, according to AAA figures provided by Wright.

The North Carolina statewide average was $2.36 Tuesday, a 2-cent increase overnight, AAA figures showed.

The national average was $2.59 Tuesday, 3-cent increase overnight, according to AAA.

The attacks removed 5.7 million barrels of crude oil per day off the market, equaling 6% of the global supply, national AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano said in a news release Monday. The world’s largest oil facility, Abqaiq, was one of the two attacked, she said.

Before the attacks, the global supply was “very healthy,” with the world even experiencing a glut, national AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano said in a news release Monday.

Now uncertainty looms.

Damage to the facilities was still being assessed early this week, according to AAA, with no word as to whether repairs will take days, weeks or months.

To ease any worries the U.S. has enough oil on hand, President Donald Trump authorized releasing crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, according to AAA. Other countries that consume Saudi oil also have emergency reserves to help compensate for the loss, AAA officials said.

The U.S. continues to trim its reliance on Saudi Arabian oil, AAA officials said. AAA cited the latest Energy Information Administration showing the U.S. imported the least amount of oil from Saudi Arabia this decade: an average 18,000 barrels in the first half of 2019 compared with 35,600 barrels in the first half of 2017.

Another reason for optimism and not panic is that U.S. domestic gasoline stocks, despite falling in recent weeks, sit at 228 million barrels — several million barrels ahead of the five-year average for this time of year, according to AAA.

Before this week’s spike, the average gas price nationwide was 7 cents less than August and 28 cents less than at this time in September 2018.

But these gaps are likely to shrink as the market adjusts to the news and crude oil prices increase,” according to the AAA release.

In Charlotte, spikes at the pump varied.

The price at the QuikTrip on Golf Links Drive, off Providence Road in south Charlotte, stood at $2.45 at noon Tuesday for a gallon of unleaded, a worker said. That was up a dime from Monday, according to GasBuddy.com.

In Ballantyne, the price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.35 at noon Tuesday at a BP on Ballantyne Commons Parkway, according to a worker. That was up only 3 cents from Monday, according to GasBuddy.com.

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.
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