Alaska News

Why gas prices are much higher in Alaska

Did you vacation in the Lower 48 this winter? Were you struck by the cheaper gas prices in, say, most of the Midwest, Gulf Coast or Lower Atlantic regions of the U.S.? Perhaps you noticed that gasoline in Seattle is fairly close to the price in Anchorage? But if it was noticeably cheaper to travel by car in the continental U.S. than back in Alaska, you're not hallucinating. Here's why.

According to a recent statistical round-up of the best and worst gas prices in the country, the insurance blog Play It Safe said Alaska has the highest prices, leaving most Alaskans scratching their heads and asking how a state known internationally for its abundant sources of crude oil tops the list?

Well, the first is obvious. The average price at pumps across Alaska is about $4.56 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel. Second, there's an explanation for the high pump price, sort of. Although Alaska produces lots of crude oil, the state lacks the refinery capacity to meet demands. Really, what we end up paying for is shipping. Crude is pumped out of the ground in Alaska, but has to be shipped to refineries in California or Texas and then shipped back to consumers. Ergo high prices when it comes time to fill 'er up.

At least we're in good company. Our friends in Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington, which round out the top five, all penciling in above $4 a gallon.

Best spots for a road trip? Tennessee, Kansas, Arkansas, South Carolina and Oklahoma all fall in-between $3.50 and $3.40 a gallon -- for now.