If the snow and frigid temperatures weren’t enough for area residents, gas prices at the pump soared up 15 to 30 cents per gallon this week.

Prices went from around $2.45 per gallon to as high as $2.75 per gallon on Wednesday. The lowest price at the pump on Wednesday in Kankakee was $2.55 per gallon at Gas Depot at 601 S. Indiana Ave. Most others were around $2.69 per gallon, some as high at $2.75, according to gasbuddy.com.

In Bradley and Bourbonnais, prices ranged from $2.69 to $2.75 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.

It’s the frigid temperatures that have gripped much of the nation from Texas to Maine that caused the recent jump in pump prices.

Nearly 20 percent of refining capacity is offline due to the extreme weather in the South. According to GasBuddy’s analysis, 11 refineries in Texas and one in Kansas have at least partially shut down due to the cold weather.

Those refineries are exposed to the elements, and unlike facilities in the northern U.S. which are prepared for cold weather, few refineries in the South have protection from these low temperatures.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in a news release that the quicker the affected refineries are able to come back online, the better, and perhaps less painful for motorists than if they remain out of service for even longer.

“Oil prices have continued to rally as global oil demand recovers from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the extreme cold weather shutting refineries down, us motorists just can’t seem to catch a break,” De Haan said. “We probably won’t see much, if any relief, anytime soon.”

With the electric generating problems refineries are experiencing in Texas, it’s making it difficult for them to turn the crude oil into gasoline, according to a story on oilprice.com.

Motorists were starting to travel a little bit more as prices had remained steady the past month and a half, and while some COVID mitigations eased. Now they’ll have to contend with the higher prices.

On Tuesday, the average price of gasoline in the U.S. was $2.52 per gallon, and GasBuddy projects that could rise to $2.65 to $2.75 per gallon as a result of the refinery shutdowns. The average price in Illinois is even higher.

“The average price today for a regular gallon of gas is $2.75, a month ago it was $2.51,” said Molly Hart, spokeswoman for AAA the Auto Club Group. “Yesterday’s price was $2.71. This is for Illinois, which is among the nation’s top 10 largest monthly increases.”

De Haan said the high prices will continue as long as OPEC continues to restrain its production.

“The rise in gas prices continues to be driven by improving demand in the United States, and has nothing to do with who sits in the White House, but rather how many motorists are filing their tanks on a daily basis, and from that data, it’s no guess, but prices will continue to trend higher,” De Haan said in the news release.

Hart said that since late November there’s been a $5 per barrel increase in crude oil prices, the highest price since 2016. Hart said AAA expects crude prices to continue to increase.

“In order to see a major spike [at the pump], a return to higher driving levels and higher prices for crude will be required,” Hart said.

Could the pump prices reach $3 per gallon?

It’s possible. Typically, prices rise 25 to 65 cents per gallon from late winter to Memorial Day. Crude prices and demand would also play a role.

“In terms of $3 a gallon, this simply provides more momentum for us to get there,” De Haan said. “... We’re right on the doorstep.”

Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at cbreach@daily-journal.com.