Colorado gas prices approach $4 per gallon ahead of Labor Day travel weekend

Biz Gas Prices
David Zalubowski/AP Photo
The per-gallon prices are illuminated above the various grades of gasoline available at a Shell station Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in southeast Denver.

Colorado’s gas prices remain at historically high levels heading into the holiday weekend. 

The average cost of a gallon of unleaded gas sat at $3.97 on Wednesday, according to AAA Colorado, which tracks prices in the state. The cost was 15 cents per gallon higher than the national average.

Costs decreased slightly over the past week, but they’re overall almost 20 cents higher than this time last year due to high amounts of travel in the state, said Skyler McKinley, a spokesman for AAA.

“2023 has been a historic travel year,” McKinley said. “This is the first year that many Americans and Coloradans felt that the world was back open to them.” 

CDOT has logged record numbers of car volume on many interstate highways throughout the season. Traffic, especially through busy mountain corridors, is expected to be at its worst Friday and Monday, according to the agency. 

Supply constraints are also contributing to high prices. Russian oil is still off the international market, and Saudi Arabia announced it and other OPEC members would continue production cuts through this fall. 

Many U.S. oil refineries have seen hiccups in operations this summer due to heat waves and equipment malfunctions, which has further disrupted supply – particularly in western states, said McKinley. 

“Gas prices tend to be relatively simple economics,” he said. “If you’ve got high demand and low supply, you tend to have high prices.” 

Drivers heading east are likely to see some relief. Average prices in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma were more than 40 cents cheaper than Colorado.

Wyoming and New Mexico are both on par with Colorado’s average. Utah and Arizona saw higher average prices – above $4 for a gallon of unleaded each on Wednesday. 

Drivers worried about rising costs can try to carpool or consider public transportation, which are generally cheaper than driving, McKinley said. 

“The most surefire way to save is not necessarily driving more conservatively, although that can help. It is availing yourself of the really vast menu of options we have in Colorado to get around,” McKinley said.