VALDOSTA, Ga. — Valdosta gas prices have skyrocketed in recent weeks, and one expert says part of the problem is the old real estate adage: location, location, location.

"Geography explains some of it, as does population," said Dan McTeague, an analyst with the price tracking website gasbuddy.com.

Valdosta gasoline prices have soared from an average of $2.36 a gallon in mid-March to $2.73 a gallon May 13, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Being a smaller city in a sparsely populated region, it may be more difficult for local retailers to move as much volume as gas stations in larger cities, leading to higher prices, McTeague said.

"If I am moving 20,000 gallons as opposed to 8,000 gallons, my distributor might be more willing to give me a discount," he said.

In recent weeks, Valdosta gas prices have been among the highest in Georgia, according to AAA's numbers. This could be attributed to competition instead of logistical reasons, said Garrett Townsend, a AAA spokesman.

"For example, Atlanta within the perimeter generally has higher gas prices than Atlanta outside the perimeter, even with the fuel being delivered by the same trucks," he said.

A major force in rising gas prices is supply versus demand, Townsend said. 

"Domestic demand is contending with reduced supplies," a situation bound to tighten up with the approach of summer when demand should increase even more, he said.

Another factor in the price hikes is refineries moving from their winter blend of oil to a cleaner-burning summer blend mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, Townsend said. The summer blend is more expensive to manufacture, he said.

In the near term, McTeague sees Valdosta prices nearing an average of $2.90 a gallon before easing off.

"I think we can expect another five to 10 cent increase as a worst-case scenario," he said. "I don't expect $3 a gallon fuel in Valdosta anytime soon."

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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