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(DAVID SANTIAGO/MIAMI HERALD/TNS)

Florida gas prices are beginning to inch higher as Florida eases restrictions, causing a growing number of people to hit the road.

Gasoline demand is now only 30 percent lower than a year ago, compared to the 50-75 percent deficit seen just weeks ago during the height of Florida’s stay-at-home order, according to AAA.

In a statement released on Monday, AAA said that gas prices in Florida increased last week – albeit slightly – for the first time in 10 weeks. After sinking to a four-year low, the state average rose a penny to $1.77 per gallon. The state average is now 1 cent more than a week ago, yet 5 cents less than last month and 89 cents less than this time last year.

“Small increases at the pump will become a more common sight in the coming weeks, as Floridians hit the road to visit businesses and beaches,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The increased demand has cut into excess supplies which  restores upward pressure on prices at the pump.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gasoline demand has climbed 40 percent in the past five weeks. Although gasoline production increased (11 percent) last week, supplies  declined (4 percent) during the past three weeks.

Growing fuel demand has restored optimism in the crude oil market. The price for U.S. oil hit a nine-week high on Friday – settling at $29.43 per barrel. Friday’s closing price was nearly 20 percent higher than the week before. Wholesale gasoline prices  also jumped 6 cents per gallon during the past week.

AAA notes that the most expensive metro markets were West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($1.93 a gallon), Gainesville ($1.92) and Fort Lauderdale ($1.87). The least expensive metro markets were Jacksonville ($1.70), Pensacola ($1.70) and Punta Gorda ($1.71).

Daily gas price averages can be found at Gasprices.aaa.com.

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