gas prices on the rise

Gas prices across much of Citrus County increased about 10 cents Monday, June 29, 2020, topping $2 per gallon for the first time in months.

Gas prices shot up 10 cents overnight Monday in many stations throughout Citrus County and prices for regular unleaded are now over $2 for the first time since mid-March.

But they may be going back down soon if the recent spike in COVID-19 cases continues and people once again start staying home and keeping their car in the garage.

Several stations in Citrus County are reporting $2.09 per gallon, according to GasBuddy. The average price for gasoline in Florida is $2.03 per gallon, a penny more than a week ago and 14 cents more than last month. Despite the recent uptick, Florida drivers are still paying 51 cents per gallon less than this time last year.

There's growing concern in the fuel market that rising cases of coronavirus will interfere with the recovery in fuel demand, which took a significant hit during the height of the state's stay-at-home orders, according to AAA - The Auto Club Group.

During that time, fuel demand was down as much as 80% in some Florida metro areas. Since reopening, the deficit shrunk to 20%.

The fear of how rising COVID-19 cases could cause people to drive less is what alleviated the upward momentum of both crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices. Crude oil set a 3-month high of $40.46 per barrel on Monday, AAA said.

But at rising cases set in, the price of oil dropped 5% percent by Friday, June 26, to a closing price of $38.49 per barrel. Wholesale gasoline took the biggest hit, falling 10 cents last week.

"Demand concerns are beginning to creep back into the market, now that cases of coronavirus are on the rise in Florida," said auto club spokesman Mark Jenkins. "State numbers suggest demand is holding steady, but market analysts worry about an eventual downturn. With wholesale prices turning lower, it's possible drivers will begin to see slightly lower prices at the pump this week."

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.