Concerns over Syria, travel and changes in oil market equal higher gas prices, analysts say

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Apr 17, 2018 at 7:24 PM

Pump prices for gasoline could continue to get more expensive this week, due to rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East over Syria.

According to a AAA report released Tuesday, the conflict in Syria — which reached new heights after the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched a coordinated missile attack against the Syrian government over the weekend — sent crude oil prices to their highest point in more than three years, and as a result, motorists are paying more for gas.

Despite some foreign policy criticisms and energy market concerns raised recently, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said the U.S.-led coalition made the right decision in escalating their military involvement in Syria. 

“Instability in the Middle East does have ramifications for the price of energy, which is one reason the United States is working to become energy independent, but American involvement in Syria is first and foremost about putting an end to a horrific abuse with chemical weapons that simply cannot be tolerated,” Roe said in an emailed statement to the Johnson City Press. 

Following the missile strikes, tensions between the United States and Syria’s allies — Iran and Russia — have risen, creating economic concerns about potential sanctions against the two nations. 

As a result, crude oil prices rose more than $5 last week, which was the largest weekly increase in more than eight months, according to analysts. While Syria has not exported oil since the conflict began in 2011, the country continues to receive fuel deliveries from Iran.

Analysts say the anxiety over these recent geopolitical tensions has translated into gas prices reaching their highest average price in two years.

As of Tuesday morning, national gas prices stood at $2.72 and Tennessee gas prices increased 7 cents since last week, bringing the average price up to $2.52. Johnson City gas prices stood at $2.49, while Kingsport and Bristol’s average price was $2.51.

"Motorists should expect a 15-cent increase at the pump in the short term," AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said in a press release. "However, prices could rise even more, depending on how the crude market responds to the latest news of a U.S. missile strike over the weekend."

AAA spokesperson Megan Osborne said the recent geopolitical developments, combined with the typical increase in gas prices during the spring, has created a “perfect storm” for rising prices.

But on Monday, analysts noted the oil market temporarily leveled off, indicating motorists might not need to expect any more than the projected 15-cent gas price increase.

“As of (Monday) morning, the oil markets moved slightly lower, which is a good sign that we shouldn’t see anything over what we’re forecasting, which is that 15-cent increase, but a lot of this depends on how the oil market reacts (to recent developments),” Osborne said Tuesday.

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