Gas Prices Fall For Most, But Jump Across Midwest

Gas price trend for week of March 23, 2015Regional Price Volatility Drags U.S. Average Higher

The price of a gallon of gasoline went down for most drivers during the past week, but regional increases across the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states dragged the national average gas price higher during the past week. Even so, that increase was less than a penny per gallon, as the national average price performed a technical rise from $2.45 to $2.46. The week on week price changes are detailed in the regular weekly update from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Volatility spikes in prices across the Midwest resulted in prices jumping nearly 11¢ in that region, as gas stations from Chicago to Cleveland reflected overland shipping costs, which had been higher in recent weeks due to winter weather events. For drivers in Ohio, prices surged over 14¢ per gallon as the Buckeye State, again, bore the brunt of Midwest price changes.

Regional upward pricing volatility did not extend to the Rocky Mountain states, although prices did push higher during the past week by about 2¢. Curiously, however, prices in Denver, Colorado, declined by about that same amount during the past week, perhaps suppressing a broader regional price hike.

For Most, Gas Prices Are Cheaper This Week

For most Americans, regional gas prices went down between 3¢ and 7¢ per gallon, with steeper price declines in some states cities. Along the U.S. West Coast, which endured shocking price hikes during February, prices went down in some cities by as much as 12¢, notably Los Angeles. Those declines, often tied to California, extended as far north as Seattle, although prices in the Emerald City only declined about 8¢ per gallon.

Prices were also down significantly across the East Coast survey districts, particularly New England, which brought the broader East Coast index down by an average of 4¢, although prices in the Lower Atlantic states, which includes populous Florida, only declined about 3¢.

Year On Year, Gasoline Is Less Costly

Overall, however, year on year prices are still significantly lower than the early Spring driving period in 2014.  Average prices are down well over $1.00 per gallon, and by as much as $1.35 in some states. And while crude oil has been highly volatile in recent weeks, the broad consensus among energy sector financial analysts, is that periodic price disruptions due to regional conflicts are not likely to pressure crude oil prices to move higher. Instead, global supply remains very high, due in large part to U.S. crude oil production, which continues to put downward pressure on domestic and overseas contracts.


Gas Prices Slip Downward After Weeks Of Increases

Domestic And Overseas Crude Oil Destabilized

The price of gas did an about-face in most regions of the country during the past week, according to the latest weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The E.I.A. report shows the average U.S. cost for a gallon of regular unleaded fell to $3.45 per gallon. While the national average price fell 3.4¢, the declines in some regions were barely felt, while other survey districts enjoyed larger price drops.

Regional Gas Price Shifts Vary Widely

Midwestern gas prices, usually quite volatile, had among the larger price declines during the past week, with prices slipped won just over a nickel per gallon. Those price drops were outpaced only by the West Coast region, which was hit hard just two weeks ago by substantial double-digit price increases. West Coast gasoline declined nearly 7¢ per gallon last week, but the bigger declines were confined to California and its large metropolitan areas. Remove the Golden State from the averages, and West Coast gas only went down about 4¢ per gallon.

Meanwhile, the drivers across the Rockies are paying much more for gas this week than last, according to the E.I.A., which reports the price of unleaded went up by about 6¢ per gallon in the Rocky Mountain survey region, the only region to experience a price increase. Prices across that area settled at about $2.29 per gallon, but that is well below the national average.

Black diesel pump nozzleGas Price Trends Extend To Trucking Industry

The Rocky Mountain region price increases affected truckers and haulers, too. The cost of diesel increased by about a penny per gallon across the survey district last week, while the broader national average price of diesel was down nearly 3¢ last week. For truckers driving across New England, the price of diesel fell just over 6¢, giving that region the biggest price decline of the week. For those regions experiencing an actual drop in diesel prices, the Lower Atlantic states had the lowest overall price decline, at just over a penny per gallon.

Crude Oil Prices Once Again In Focus

The about-face in gas prices came as crude oil began destabilizing once more at the end of last week. Prices had been lurking in a range from the high $40 per barrel to low $50 per barrel range for domestic crude, West Texas Intermediate. Brent crude, the overseas benchmark, had been trading in the high $50 per barrel to low $60 per barrel range. As of Tuesday morning, however, both futures indices had fallen substantially, with WTI now trading in the low $40 per barrel range and Brent in the low $50 per barrel range.

Broader Issues Than Supply And Demand At Play

The decline in prices can be traced to a pair of primary factors. The first is the glut of domestic crude being produced by the United States, which has been a significant factor in the pricing equation for months. The other issue is the strength of the U.S. dollar, which has been gaining ground in recent weeks due to the anticipated end of bond buying by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. Meanwhile, the Eurozone economies are about to experience their own brand of quantitative easing, which has resulted in a weaker Euro. Combined, the actions of the Fed and the European Central Bank have many investors fleeing to U.S. dollars, which makes U.S. oil more expensive overseas.


Gas Prices Skirt Upward, Decline In Midwest

National Average Moves Higher By Two Cents

Gas price trend for week of March 9, 2015The national average price of a gallon of gas went up another two cents during the past week, as detailed in the latest pricing survey released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The E.I.A. report shows the average gas price in the U.S. is now $2.49 per gallon, which is 45¢ higher than just five weeks ago. However, the price is still down well over $1.00 from this period a year ago.

The price of gas surged across the West Coast last week, and while price increases were not as substantial this week, they dragged the national averages higher. The Rocky Mountain states also experienced a surge in pricing, as the region gave up its tenuous slot as the cheapest region for gas.

Gas prices in Round Rock, Texas, near Austin. prices have jumped nearly 30¢ in the past month.
Gas prices in Round Rock, Texas, near Austin, adjacent to the TX-45 toll road. Prices there have jumped nearly 30¢ in the past month. Photo: Eric Scallion.

The Gulf Coast states, typically the place to find the least-expensive gas, reclaimed their slot as the cheapest place in the nation to buy fuel. Prices across the West Coast went up 5¢ per gallon, but when California is removed from the equation, the price increases were closer to 11¢ per gallon. That trend also held in the Rocky Mountains, where prices jumped 11¢ week on week.

In the Midwestern states, where prices are typically volatile, the price of gas actually went down, the only region to show a pricing retreat in the past week. The cost of fuel dipped by 4¢ to settle at $2.34 per gallon, which is also well below the national average.

Diesel Fuel Costs Rise, But Slowly Compared To Unleaded

The price of diesel fuel continues to creep upward, and it is only creeping, indeed. The price of a gallon of diesel, nationwide, is now averaging about $2.94, up about one penny on the week. Diesel prices have been rising slowly, compared with their unleaded fuel counterparts, but that also follows a much slower decline in prices, too. Retail diesel costs did not decline as quickly as unleaded gasoline during the last six months of 2014.

Crude Oil, Summer Gas And Strong Dollar Influencing Prices

The price of crude oil continues to influence retail gas prices, but the wholesale gasoline prices are also playing a substantial role. Despite a glut of oil domestically and around the world, U.S. prices are rising, in part, because of a switch to summer fuel blends, which are more expensive to produce. Gas prices typically increase in the first few months of the year, ahead of the summer driving season.

The stronger U.S. dollar is also creating problems, because it makes U.S. oil more expensive on the open markets, driving global prices higher, and that can reverberate on the U.S. retail gasoline market. The timing of that influence, however, remains to be seen.


Gas Prices Surge Amid Shifting Output And Refinery Changes

Gas price trend for week of March 2, 2015Crude Oil Prices Stabilizing As Summer Blends Go Into Production

Consumer gas prices shot higher during the past week, up nearly 50¢ per gallon in some states, as the overall U.S. gas price settled at $2.47. That nationwide average is up by about 14¢ per gallon, lead by a major shift in prices along the West Coast, where prices went up an average of 37¢ per gallon. The stunning price increases are a major shift for U.S. drivers who, for six months from July 2014 through January 2015, experienced a precipitous decline in prices. The weekly averages are detailed in the regular fuel price survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Regional Gas Prices Stun Area Drivers

Region by region, prices were up anywhere from 8¢ per gallon, as in the Rocky Mountain states, to upwards of 37¢ per gallon, a price increase shock experienced by drivers on the U.S. West Coast. State by state, the numbers were equally hard-hitting. In California, drivers are paying 45¢ more for per gallon this week than last, and drivers in Washington state are paying 27¢ per gallon more. In Florida, where spring breakers are about to inundate the Sunshine State, prices went up 11¢ per gallon.

Crude Oil Stabilizes But Not Quite Into Recovery Mode

Meanwhile, the price of crude oil, which had been the arbiter of consumer gas prices during the past several months, is reclaiming some strength and has been trading in a tighter range during the past few weeks. The overall spate of declines, experience since last summer, appears to have come to an end. West Texas Intermediate, the domestic crude benchmark, has stabilized at around $50 per barrel, while the overseas index, Brent, has been trading above $60 per barrel.

Summer Driving Affecting Winter Drivers

Meanwhile, production of refined fuels in the United States has been shifting to summer blends of gasoline, and that means the overall retail price of gas will continue to climb, even if no other pricing pressures get in the way. The problem is there are many pressures contributing to  the higher gas price, including the shuttering of under-producing or older refineries and a strong U.S. dollar, which makes U.S. oil exports more expensive on open markets.