Monthly Archives: July 2014

Drivers Get Summer Break As Gas Prices Take A Plunge

Prices Take Biggest Weekly Dive Of 2014

Gas price trend for week of July 28, 2014The cost of a gallon of unleaded gasoline plunged by an average of five cents last week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The E.I.A. weekly report shows prices fell in nearly every region, with the exception of the Rocky Mountain states, where prices were either flat or slightly higher. Overall, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas, on a nationwide basis, now stands at $3.54, but prices along the Gulf Coast, the cheap spot for gas, are now averaging just $3.35. Along the West Coast, where prices are the highest, the gas price average stands at $3.92 per gallon. The biggest weekly price declines came in the Midwest, where the cost of fuel dipped by about 9¢ per gallon over the past week.

The weekly price drop marks the fourth consecutive week of declining gas prices, the first time that has happened since January. In all, prices have dropped about 16¢ per gallon, on average, since the end of June. Region by region, however, the price differential is substantial, with drivers in the aforementioned Midwest enduring significant volatility, while those living in on the West Coast and California paying substantially higher prices than most of the rest of U.S. drivers. Even so, the official gas price has finally come below $4.00 per gallon in California, although most city drivers are not yet enjoying that price point.

Are Consumer Gas Prices Breaking From Wholesale Gas And Crude Futures?

Retail gas prices move with wholesale and crude prices, but the charts above show consumer prices appearing to lead the trends instead of following in recent months.

Retail gas prices move with wholesale and crude prices, but the charts above show consumer prices appearing to lead the trends instead of following in recent months.

An interesting trend to observe is the corollary between the cost of oil futures and the prices of wholesale and retail gasolines. While domestic crude oil prices are much higher this year than at the end of summer 2013, the price of gas is actually, from a statistical standpoint, close to the same as 11 months ago. In fact, average U.S. gas prices through August 2013 fluctuated between $3.55 and $3.65 per gallon last year, when West Texas Intermediate was trading in a range between $93 and $96 per barrel. For July 2014, the price of gas has been averaging within same range as August 2013, but the price of WTI has been trading much higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In fact, WTI has been trading between $100 and $108 per barrel, swayed heavily by investors who are jittery about geopolitical instability in various hotspots around the globe. Brent Light Sweet Crude, which also plays an impact on U.S. gas prices, traded between $100 and $105 per barrel in August of 2013. During the past 30 days, Brent has traded between $107 and $113 per barrel.

The interplay between crude oil and wholesale gas prices is unmistakable. Crude stocks, refinery costs and distribution all affect the wholesale price of refined motor fuels. However, when the one-year trend charts are juxtaposed, it is clear the retail gas prices have not fluctuated nearly as wildly as wholesale and crude prices. Moreover, there appear to be times when the retail prices appeared to fall ahead of a decline in wholesale and futures costs. Conversely, this summer’s price increases appeared to come ahead of similar fluctuations in wholesale and crude.

Consumer Demand Likely To Lead Prices In Coming Weeks

A coming decline in consumer demand is most likely to play the largest role in retail gas prices during August. The end of the summer driving seasons has already started for most travelers, particularly those with children who will be returning to school in the coming weeks. With the lower consumer demand, retail gas prices will continue to decline somewhat during August or, at worst, level off and remain steady through the month. However, continuing tensions in the Middle East and in Europe could destabilize crude futures heading into the autumn, which may lead to higher-than-usual prices after the start of school, a time when prices typically decline.

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Gas Prices Retreat As Summer Driving Season Winds Down For School

Price Declines Come Amid New Global Turmoils

Gas price trend for the week of July 21, 2014While the world watches two intense dramas unfold in Europe and the Middle East, the geopolitical instability seemed to have little immediate impact on gas prices, and consumers across the country enjoyed a refreshing, large decline in the price of retail gas. The latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the price of an average gallon of gas dropped over 4¢ during the past week, settling in below $3.60 for the first time since the beginning of April, at least on a nationwide basis. Region by region, the average price of gas is no longer exceeds $4.00 in any survey area. That is the first time that has happened in three months. In some areas, the retail fuel cost is now less than $3.40.

The news is particularly good across the West Coast, where prices had been stubbornly above the $4.00 mark for month. However, California drivers have not been spared the pain of that dubious price point just yet. Drivers in the Golden State are still paying an average $4.03 per gallon, but that is 10¢ cheaper than two weeks ago. Moreover, the recent retreat in crude oil prices and a decline in wholesale prices have both contributed to a turn-around in prices at the retail level, which have been, for the most part, pushing higher since the start of the year.

In other regions, the cost of gas dropped below $3.40 for the Gulf Coast, where prices are typically the lowest in the nation. Prices in the Lower Atlantic states dropped below $3.50, while prices across the broader East Coast dipped under $3.60.

City Prices Typically Remain Above Regional Averages

Gas prices in Fort Lauderdale on July 15

Some city gas prices remain well above their regional price averages, like at this station near Fort Lauderdale’s aiport. Below: Gas prices next to Texas Route 45, a toll road near Round Rock, were in line with regional prices, as reported by the E.I.A. Photos: TurnpikeInfo.com (top) and Kristen Scallion (bottom).

For city drivers, the price of gas remains above their regional averages. While the prices in the urban cores have come down, along with the national averages, the range across a single city can still vary widely.

Prices near the downtown Fort Lauderdale area were at $3.79 per gallon, although that was 10¢ cheaper than one week ago. Near the airport, and along Florida’s Turnpike, the prices were lower, but still well above the regional and state averages.

Gas prices near Round Rock, Texas on July 18, 2014In Texas, which is part of the Gulf Coast region, the price of gas was slightly higher than the region, itself. TurnpikeInfo.com spotters found prices at some stations adjacent to Texas toll roads where prices were in line with the regional averages. Closer to Austin, the prices are historically higher, especially adjacent to the Capital of Texas Highway and near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Global Political And Military Flash Points Could Turn Gas Prices Upward

The drop in gas prices comes amid new turmoils in Ukraine and in the Middle East. In fact, before renewed tensions in the past week, domestic crude oil prices had been coming down. Investors seemed to be assured there would be little supply disruption as the result strife in Iraq. However, newly-intensified U.S. sanctions on some Russian companies and individuals added new strain to relations between the two nations in the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and that was before the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet last week. Then there is Israel’s military actions in Gaza, which expanded the range of Middle East territory now engulfed in military turmoil. The Middle East has vacillated from one crisis-level to the next since last summer, when the potential for a U.S. intervention in Syria was first seriously discussed. Problems in Libya, Iran, Iraq and now Israel have fomented and renewed political discord and, as a result, investor jitters about crude oil supplies.

The result is fresh concern about oil supply disruptions, which has caused investors to bid West Texas Intermediate contracts back above the $100 level. Prices had traded below $100 as recently as one week ago, but WTI futures were trading over $105 per barrel at times Tuesday morning on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The current contract bids are for August delivery.

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Gas Prices Retreat As Crude Supplies And Production Increase

Gas price trends for week of July 14, 2014Finally, Summer Driving Gets A Bit Cheaper For Vacation Travelers

The cost of a summer drive finally relaxed a bit during the past week as the price of a gallon of gas retreated just about 4¢, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Prices took their most significant week-over-week decline since early November, 2013, and this week’s price drops marked the first time all year that retail gas prices have declined significantly for two consecutive weeks.

Prices dropped in nearly every region, but drivers the Rocky Mountain states did not get a price break this week. Both California and the broader West Coast region enjoyed a dip in pricing, while the volatile Midwestern markets enjoyed another week of steep declines that brought prices down, on average, nearly 8¢ per gallon.

Regional Price Averages Impacted By Their Metro City Prices

Gas station near Ohio Turnpike

Prices across the Midwest have been falling faster than other parts of the nation, led by steep metro-area price declines.

Once again, individual, larger cities across the Midwest contributed significantly to the regional average’s price declines, which also impacted West Coast averages this week. For instance, the E.I.A. report shows the price of gas dropped by 10¢ in Chicago and by almost 11¢ in Cleveland, pulling the broad Midwestern price averages down. For the West Coast, particularly in California, price declines from Seattle to San Francisco and Los Angeles contributed significantly to the overall regional dip in fuel costs.

Crude Oil Retreats Below $100 As Production And Supply Go Up

The crude oil outlook is finally beginning to favor consumers, with the price of West Texas Intermediate Crude finally trading below $100 per barrel, the first time that has happened since the beginning of May. Prices spiked during June and into early July on overseas supply concerns and a drop at stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma crude storage facility.

However, geopolitical concerns abroad, notably in Iraq and Libya, have begun to ease, and the crude oil supply in the United States is high, despite the lower supplies at Cushing. Many refineries are able to bypass Cushing, Oklahoma, with new pipelines bringing crude stock directly to the refineries, themselves.

In the meantime, oil production in the United States is at its highest level in 28 years, according to a Bloomberg News report, which cited an separate E.I.A. survey that tracks domestic energy output. The E.I.A. report of July 9 showed crude production in the U.S. had hit 8.51 million barrels of oil per day, which is the highest it has been since October, 1986.

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Drivers Duped By Spoof Toll Collection Emails

Fake Toll Violation Notice Redirects Users To Apparently-Hijacked Church Website In Ontario

U.S. drivers with and without electronic toll accounts have been receiving emails purporting to represent the E-ZPass electronic toll system. The phishing notices have been sent since at least July 8, 2014, and the emails warn users of an unpaid toll that must be paid. The spoof emails use the E-ZPass logo, but they do not originate with E-ZPass or any other state agency.

The emails read, “You have not paid for driving on a toll road. This invoice is sent repeatedly.” The sentence structure and capitalization of the emails do not follow English grammar rules, even to the point of a blatant error at the start of one sentence. “[P]lease service your debt in the shortest possible time,” the email reads, with an obvious capitalization error at the start of the sentence.

TurnpikeInfo.com has received several queries from website visitors asking if the emails are authentic. The spoof demand for payment is completely fake. Furthermore, it does not originate with E-ZPass or with TurnpikeInfo.com.

spoof e-zpass email

A copy of the spoof email being sent to drivers. The link on the email redirects users to a church domain in Canada that has likely been hacked.

Instead, the the alleged sending email address is from the domain GlobalOpen.org, using the email manager@globalopen.org. The website, itself, is a blank page, and a review of source code shows no content of any kind. The domain name is owned by a man named Mobashar Yazdani, according to the Whois database maintained by the sponsoring registrar company, 1and1.com. It is unknown whether the emails are actually being sent from GlobalOpen.org. Mr. Yazdani’s email address is listed as mobyazdani@gmail.com.

Spoof Toll Collection Link Sends Users To Church Domain In Canada

The email contains a link for users to supposedly download their unpaid toll invoice, but the link actually directs users to a domain in Ontario that is likely hijacked. The directory structure and dynamic data used in the link appear to send users to a temporary directory, with data that may be used by either Javascript, PHP or other server-side code to execute an unknown set of instructions. As a security precaution, we at TurnpikeInfo.com did not follow the link to learn what happens. The master domain is IslandBibleChapel.com, which does have a real website operating. That website is built on a content management platform called Joomla.

TurnpikeInfo.com sent an email to the developer of the website, Sault Ste Marie Web Design, in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada, warning that their client website may have been compromised. At the time of the writing of this article, we had not received a reply.

 Toll Violation Notices Are Only Sent Via Postal Mail

If a driver has violated a toll barrier or has a toll invoice to be paid, states’ Departments of Transportation always send the invoice to the address of the registered vehicle using the U.S. Postal Service. Email is never used by state agencies when attempting to collect tolls, either on account or for a violation.

However, even the postal mail has fallen victim to scammers, in recent months. The state of Florida warned drivers in early April of fake toll collection notices that were being sent to drivers across that state, eventually issuing a media warning and issuing pictures of a real toll notice, so that drivers would know how to spot an authentic invoice.

Gas Prices Take A Summer Dip, Especially In Midwest

The Cost Of Driving Gets Cheaper As Crude Oil Retreats From June Highs

Gas price trend for July 7, 2014The cost of a gallon of unleaded gas fell about two cents last week to settle at $3.68, according to the latest survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The nationwide average gas price was lead by a moderate decline in gas prices across the Midwest, where the average cost of fuel dropped almost 6¢ per gallon.

Retail gas pricing seemed to follow a decline in the price of crude oil, particularly West Texas Intermediate, although the fluctuations in both crude oil and gas prices, themselves, happened within such a close time span there is not likely a direct corollary. Crude peaked near the last week of June, but it has been coming down since. The cost of WTI on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) has fallen below $104 per barrel, and it has been flirting with the $103 level. Prices peaked at $106.77 per barrel June 25.

Regional Gas Prices Mixed Across The Country

For the rest of the country, the cost of gas took a summer dip or moved higher, depending upon where you live. For drivers on the West Coast, the cost of gas pushed up about a penny per gallon. The same happened across the Rocky Mountain region. New England drivers are paying about the same or slightly more this week than last, according to the E.I.A. survey.

The Lower Atlantic and Gulf Coast states enjoyed a dip in pricing of 3¢ and 2¢ per gallon, respectively. The Central Atlantic states, which includes the Carolinas, Viriginia and Maryland, prices dipped by only about a penny. In fact, the further north one traveled along the Atlantic Coast, the less likely gas prices were to have declined from last week’s retail pricing.

Urban Prices Much Higher Than Suburban Gas

Gas prices in Chicago on July 4, 2014

Above: The price of gas on July 4, inside Chicago’s famous Loop. Below: Gas prices at the Hinsdale Oasis on the Tri-State Tollway the same day. While higher than the Midwest regional average, regular unleaded was about 31¢ per gallon less than downtown Chicago.

Gas prices at the Hinsdale Oasis near Chicago on July 4, 2014

However, prices in some metropolitan areas were mixed or barely moved at all, according to spot surveys done by TurnpikeInfo.com during a highway tour the first week of July. For instance, prices in downtown Chicago remained the same from one survey period to the next, even though the price of gas in the metropolitan area declined by about 8¢ per gallon, according to the E.I.A. While we toured the Illinois toll roads, the cost of gasoline at a local station at on Congress Avenue, inside Chicago’s Loop, was $4.28 per gallon, well above the $3.87 average for the city. Meanwhile, along the Tri-State Tollway, at the Hinsdale Oasis, the Illinois equivalent of a service plaza, the price of gas was $3.97 per gallon for regular unleaded. The Hinsdale Oasis is still within the Chicago metro area.

That kind of pricing disparity is not uncommon across various metropolitan areas and smaller cities, whether in the Midwest or elsewhere. Observations made by TurnpikeInfo.com during the past 18 months show fuel prices in some cities across South Florida can range by as much as 30¢ per gallon over just two to three miles of real estate. The recent tour of the Midwest toll roads revealed the range to be approximately the same in Illinois. Prices in both regions tended to be much higher near urban cores and lower in the suburban areas.

Gas prices on Capital of Texas Hwy. on June 30, 2014

Gas prices adjacent to the Capital of Texas Highway, a toll road that connects Austin with its northern suburbs. Prices on June 30 were about 5% higher than the Gulf Coast average. Photo: Kristen Scallion.

The urban-versus-suburban price differences are not as dramatic in Texas, where the cost of gas along the Capital of Texas Highway, a Texas toll road, can run higher than the state average. Drivers near Austin were paying about $3.62 per gallon for regular unleaded on June, which was about 14¢ per gallon higher than the Gulf Coast average for that day. About one week later, in outlying Round Rock, the home of one of the Dell Computer campuses, the cost of fuel was about $3.45 per gallon the morning of July 8. Drivers in that suburban city were enjoying a fuel cost about a penny below the regional average, underscoring the variance between prices in the urban core and those in suburban and rural areas. Regardless of the region or state, surveys by TurnpikeInfo.com and its spotters show there is nearly always a significant disparity.

On-Highway Prices Closer To Regional Averages, But Still Higher Near Larger Cities

Regardless of urban pricing, the cost paid by drivers on the highway and the toll roads is what matters most, when traveling between cities. The E.I.A. price point for the Midwest, for the July 7 survey, shows the Midwest regional average gas price is $3.61 per gallon. During our tour, the price of gas in Illinois was about 11¢ per gallon higher, while most stations and truck stops along the roadways in Ohio and Indiana were charging between $3.52 and $3.65 per gallon. The Midwest regional average, as reported by the E.I.A. July 7, is $3.61 per gallon.

Truckers Get Slight Relief In Diesel Prices

The cost of a gallon of diesel fuel dipped by about a penny per gallon, at least on a nationwide basis. The nationwide average cost for diesel is now $3.91.

For most of the East Coast, however, the cost was relatively flat. In the Rocky Mountain States and the Gulf Coast, the cost of diesel declined enough to be noticeable. In California, truckers got no relief as the price of diesel remained at an average of $4.14 per gallon. Across much of the remaining West Coast, however, the price of diesel did drip about a penny per gallon.

Year On Year Gas Much Higher In Price

None of the past week’s decline in gas prices does anything to change the fact that 2014’s summer driving season is more expensive than 2013. For some areas, the change is scarcely noticeable, but such minuscule price moves are confined to the Rocky Mountain region. For most of the rest of America’s drivers, the cost of gas is between 16¢ and 22¢ higher than it was last year. Averaging a 19¢ per gallon price differential, that means the cost of the average fill-up, for a 15-gallon fuel tank, will be about $2.85 more than last year. However, the difference for truckers is significant, given the size of fuel tanks on most tractor-trailer rigs.

While year over year diesel prices up less than retail gasoline, the price is still about 9¢ per gallon higher than at this time last year. That means a truck with a 300-gallon fuel capacity is going to cost $27 to refuel. Most rigs get between 4 and 8 miles of travel for each gallon of fuel, according to Wikipedia.org.

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Average U.S. Gas Price Stays The Same, With A Catch

Editor’s Note: This week’s report is being filed from Chicago, where we are on the road for a video shoot of the toll roads across the Midwest. As a result, the report will be abbreviated.

Gas price trend for June 30, 2014The price of gas did not move much during the past week, according to the latest weekly survey from the U.S Energy Information Administration. In fact, on a nationwide basis, the average
price of gas did not move at all, remaining $3.70 per gallon. However, regional price fluctuations did impact consumers, particularly in California and across the
Midwest, where pricing volatility is the norm.

For the Midwest region, the price of gas dropped about 2¢ per gallon on the week, while in California, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded pushed upward by
3¢, dragging the broader West Coast region with it. For consumers in the Gulf Coast states, the price of gas dipped by about a penny, after coming close to the
$3.50 threshold.

Examined on an annual basis, however, the price of gas is significantly higher for most of us. Only drivers in the Rocky Mountain states have escaped the
punishing price increases that have impacted the rest of the nation. In fact, the cost of gas is about a penny lower than last year. That price decline may seem
trite, but it is significant when compared to other regions, where the cost of gas jumped dramatically.

For instance, in the Midwest, the gas prices are 28¢ per gallon higher this year, led by Ohio, where prices are about 39¢ higher than last summer. For the West
Coast, which includes California, the price of fuel is about 17¢ per gallon higher. Even on the Gulf Coast, where the cost of driving is typically the lowest in the
nation, retail gas prices are 17¢ per gallon higher. On a nationwide basis, the cost of fuel averages 21¢ more than at this time in 2013.

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