Gas Prices Hold Steady, Officially, As Crude Keeps Rising

Prices Take A Breather, But It Could Be A Short Pause

Gas prices at Florida station
The price of regular unleaded jumped 10¢ in one day at this Florida station.

The price of consumer gasoline leveled off in most areas during the past week, although the Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain regions experienced a decline in gas prices of two and four cents, respectively. Overall, however, the change in the price of unleaded gas was negligable, providing a cooling off period, of sorts, in the wake of heated price increases the previous week.

For the current survey period, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded was flat, at $3.27, according to the latest weekly survey from the Energy Information Administration. The price of diesel was also flat, nationwide, while drivers on the West Coast did experience a slight dip in per gallon prices, about two cents.

Stability In Prices Not Likely To Last

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The relief from rising gas prices is not likely to endure, however, as crude oil prices continue to spike and refinery inventories shrink ahead of the Christmas holiday.

October and early November’s trend toward seasonal and yearly low prices came to an about-face over the Thanksgiving weekend amid geopolitical problems in Libya, primarily a prolonged strike has prevented oil supplies from being loaded on transports. Word from political leaders in the North African nation Tuesday was that oil shipments could resume this weekend, perhaps on Sunday.

Crude Prices Up, Inventories Down

WTI Chart from CNBC
WTI crude oil futures have risen dramatically during the past ten days, closing in on $99 and narrowing a gap with Brent.

In the United States, a decline in crude oil inventories caught many industry analysts off guard, as inventories shrank by more than twice the expected rate during the past week, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The API report showed crude inventories dropped by about 7.5 million barrels during the week ending December 6; the forecast had been for a 3-million barrel decline.

Political instability abroad and declining crude supplies domestically have taken their toll on the futures markets, which TurnpikeInfo.com reported last week had begun to spike. West Texas Intermediate has been the most volatile, falling to a low of about $93 per barrel the day before Thanksgiving, only to go ballistic last week.

The price of WTI moved closer to $99 Tuesday afternoon, althoug the price remained under that threshold at $98.54. Meanwhile, Brent Light Sweet Crude came off its highs last week; Brent is currently at just under $110 per barrel.

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Gas Prices Level Off In Some Areas, Top Off In Others

Gas Prices Are Mixed As Diesel Prices Begin A New Surge

March 11, 2013 gas prices
Gas prices could be heading higher than government forecasters expect as Brent crude oil prices flirt with levels not seen since March 2012. Strikes in Libya and other supply disruptions have pushed Brent well past $112 per barrel, dragging WTI futures for January with it. WTI closed north of $96 per barrel Tuesday.

The recent upward turnaround in gas prices has begun to do another about-face, although the rise in fuel costs for some has continued past the Thanksgiving travel period. The lingering high prices and price increases continued to affect mainly the East Coast region, while most other areas saw prices level off or return to the declines that were enjoyed during October and the start of November. The declines may not last, however, if futures prices continue their unabashed escalation.

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The latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is now at $3.27, down from $3.29 last week but still six cents higher than the seasonal and yearly low that was enjoyed two weeks ago.
The average price of diesel continued upward, and at a more brisk pace, during the past week. The average price of a gallon of fuel is now costing truckers $3.88 at the national level, but regional prices are as high as $4.06. Drivers in New England, broadly, in the east and California, specifically, on the west coast were paying the highest prices. The lowest diesel prices were to be found on the Gulf Coast, but prices there are still averaging about $3.78 per gallon.

Crude Oil Could Be Grinch That Steals Christmas

The price of crude oil has been quite mixed lately, and Brent crude has been heavily influenced by supply problems originating in Libya. An EIA report issued just before the Thanksgiving holiday showed the continued strikes at loading ports have depressed Libyan crude supplies by about one million barrels per day. Indeed, the price of Brent has remained above $110 per barrel since November 21, peaking at prices not seen since August, when other supply disruptions in Libya affected the price of overseas crude.

Gas station sign in Breezewood
Breezewood, Pennsylvania in May 2012, two months after the Brent futures’ last mad dash into territory above $112.

However, the markets took a new turn Tuesday afternoon as when Brent crude closed significantly above $112 for the first time since early 2012. Tuesday trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange brought a fresh price levels and pressures as the benchmark commodity flirted with the $113 level before retreating some later in the day. Brent crude has only been that at that level or higher on three brief occasions in the past three years, with March 2012 being the last time the commodity has priced so high. The cost of gas at the pump, during the late spring of 2012, reflected that pricing pressure.

Domestic crude, West Texas Intermediate, has also been under price pressure of late, and Tuesday’s trading session pushed the WTI dramatically higher in the wake of Brent’s Monday and Tuesday closings. WTI for January delivery swelled well past $96. WTI had been on a longer-term downward trend, closing even as low as $91.77 per barrel the day before Thanksgiving.

The price of WTI on the New York Mercantile Exchange was at $96.12 per barrel on Tuesday afternoon, just at 4 p.m., the first time since Halloween prices have been so high, and an increase of $4.35 per barrel, or about 5%, in just three trading sessions since the holiday.

Nevertheless, the EIA has maintained its forecast that January 2014 prices will rise, but only as a short-term event as season supply and refinery adjustments are made. The longer-term forecast is for consumer prices of gas to continue sliding lower during 2014. However, prolonged supply issues in Libya and Europe could impel traders to drive futures further upward, which is not originally a part of the EIA forecast.

The price disruptions on the futures markets, as have happened in the past few days, are not likely to leave consumers unaffected. The questions only will be whether crude prices level off, and if they do not, will retailers hold off hiking prices until after the holiday season? If retail distributors and operators anticipate significant supply cost increases in January, they could begin raising prices weeks before January deliveries get underway.

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Cost Of Driving Lurches Upward At Thanksgiving

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The price of traveling during the Thanksgiving Holidays surged during the past week, with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas rising more than 7¢ per gallon, according to the latest weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The price of fuel had been declining rapidly during most of October, but the increase in demand for petroleum products, in advance of the holiday, has helped contribute to rising prices. The current U.S. average is back up to $3.29 per gallon.

IMG_4447 The average price of gas in the U.S. notched back up to $3.29 per gallon during the past week, although some regions enjoyed further price declines. In other areas, like Texas and Florida, the price of gas soared between 16¢ and 19¢ per gallon.

The week-over-week gains in gas prices did not affect the West Coast or California, where prices continued to drop during the past week. In fact, the average price of gas in California actually slipped behind New York state during the most recent survey, with drivers in the Golden State paying about $3.55 per gallon and New Yorkers paying an average of $3.57.

Price declines in the Rocky Mountain region were the greatest, however, with an average 4¢ per gallon decline in fuel costs at the pump. The Rocky Mountain region has the second-lowest gas prices in the U.S., being only one cent higher in cost than the average price across the Gulf Coast.

City by city, drivers in Miami fared worse than nearly everywhere else during the past week, with gas prices surging a whopping 15¢ per gallon in South Florida, and prices in the Sunshine state up an astonishing 19¢ per gallon. In Texas, the only other state where gas prices surge so much, the price drivers are paying at the pump lurched upward by an average of 16¢.

Drivers in Houston are paying about 17¢ per gallon more for gas, the only major city where prices jumped more than Miami.
The cost of diesel fuel finally reversed or halted its downward trend, as prices in nearly all regions increased by a penny or more during the past week. On average, truckers and diesel car drivers paied about 2¢ more per gallon during the past week, while drivers in the Midwest ended up paying as much as 4¢ more. Prices in California and the broader West Coast paid the same, with the average prices at the same levels as last week.

Year over year, most of us are paying less than we were at Thanksgiving time in 2012. However, that trend does not hold for Florida and Texas, the fourth and second largest states in the U.S., respectively, by population.

Regardless of the past two weeks’ trends of rising fuel costs, the EIA has not adjusted its December price forecast or its 2014 price projections. Fuel costs are expected to continue their downward slide through December and for most of 2014, with moderate price increases expected during peak travel times.

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Gas Prices Slip Upward In States East Of Rocky Mountains

Price Declines In Recent Weeks Come To Abrupt Halt

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The price of gasoline, which has been going down for several weeks, did an about-face last week as the cost of filling up suddenly lurched upward a few cents. The Midwest, Central Atlantic and Lower Atlantic regions of the U.S. were hardest hit, with gas price increases of four and five cents per gallon, on average.

The national average price of gas slipped upward to $3.22 per gallon of regular unleaded, according to the weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Even the Gulf Coast, which enjoyed a week with official survey prices below the $3.00 threshold, found the average price of gasoline back to the 3-dollar mark, although many stations from Texas through the Florida panhandle have prices well below $3.00.

Despite the increase in gas prices in the eastern states, the West Coast region and the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. enjoyed more relief from price pressures at the pump. The average price of gas in the Rockies and the broader West Coast regions fell an average four cents per gallon, with the price of unleaded ranging in average from $3.18 in Idaho and Montana to $3.47 in California.

Diesel pumps at the Pompano Beach Service Plaza
Diesel prices continued their slow decline during the past week, bucking a trend of higher fuel costs for other drivers.

Diesel prices also continued to decline during the past week, helping offset shipping costs related to fuel. The average price of a gallon of diesel was down to $3.82 across the nation, although truckers in New England are still paying at or above $4.00 in some places. As with regular gas, the lowest costs for diesel are in the Gulf Coast region.

Gas Price Increases Not Expected To Endure

The uptick in prices for most regular drivers may be short lived. The EIA has long been forecasting continued declines in petroleum prices, with an expected upward turn in prices only expected in January. The EIA long-range forecasts show the price of fuel will keep falling through December, rise slightly in January, then continue declining for the remainder of 2014.

Service plaza near Warren, Ohio.
Gas prices are likely to continue their downward trend, despite last week’s cost increases.

The upward pressure on prices may have been the result of tighter gas supply stocks after the first week of November. The EIA’s weekly petroleum status report, which is separate from the gas price survey, shows the weekly motor gasoline stocks declined by about 8-million barrels from November 1 to November 9, and crude oil input to refineries also declined during the same period. The crude stocks dropped from a high of 14.95-million barrels per day on November 1 to only 14.73-million barrels per day on November 9. However, daily crude input to refineries can fluctute considerably from day to day.

As for the crude oil prices, themselves, West Texas Intermedia continues flirting with levels below $93, although prices were up to $93.37 after the lunch hour Tuesday. Brent crude has also continued to remain well north of $100, and was trading near $107 per barrel late in the day Tuesday. The issue with crude, however, is two-fold.

On one hand, current prices are for December delivery, although fuel suppliers, including gas retailers, use a last-in, first-out accounting method. On the other, foreign crude supplies account for only about 40% of U.S. oil consumption, leaving the WTI with greater influence on domestic fuel costs to drivers.

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Gas Keeps Getting Cheaper, Making For Early Holiday Gift

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The price of gas continues to fall across the nation, although the declines are a bit smaller as November gets underway, according to this week’s report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA report shows the price of a gallon of regular unleaded fell to a nationwide average of $3.27, which is about two cents less than last week. some regions, as usual, enjoyed a larger decline than others. The Rocky Mountain states had the biggest weekly drop in fuel costs, with the average price at the pump down by about 6¢ per gallon.

Gas prices in South Florida
The price of gas across many regions is now below $3.30, with some areas, like the Gulf Coast, close to $3.00. Picture taken Mon., Nov. 4 in Oakland Park, Florida.

The price of gas in the Gulf Coast states was nearly at $3.00 per gallon, the only region that is that close, officially, to having three-dollar gas. For most of us, the price is between $3.20 and $3.30 per gallon. Moreover, gas prices in most regions are now lower than at the start of 2013.

By mid summer, the cost of driving had gone so high, many drivers were paying near or just over $4.00 per gallon for fuel. The price of diesel was even higher, making a fill-up for a trucker a costly endeavor.

The price of diesel is down this week, as well, following the trend of regular gasoline. However, the cost of diesel is not declining as quickly as with regular unleaded. The average price of a gallon of diesel is down about a penny per gallon, although some parts of the West Coast and California are seeing declines of 2¢ and 3¢ per gallon, respectively.

The price of gas is expected to level off by mid-December, according to a recent forecast by the EIA. The projected price of gas near the height of the holiday season is expected to hover around $3.15 per gallon. If current trends are any indication, some regions will have gas prices lower than $3.00 gallon, particularly the Gulf Coast.

On the futures exchanges, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down to a five-month low Tuesday evening, after closing in on $93 per barrel. Even Brent is down significantly, moving closer to $105 per barrel. Tuesday prices fell considerably for both WTI and Brent, with the U.S. crude futures having fallen five out of the past six sessions.

A report from Reuters states U.S. oil supplies are up, reducing demand for future deliveries. The report cites an increase of about 2-million barrels of oil at a stock yard in Cushing, Oklahoma, which is the largest increase in supply there since December 2012.

When the glut of supply is matched with reduced refinery demand, the combination gives a one-two punch to the price of oil futures, which translates into lower prices at the retail level. However, due to oil companies’ accounting practices, retail prices declines, due to lower crude prices, typically time to manifest.

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Gas Prices Plummet, Fall To $3 In Some Areas

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The price of gas went into a near freefall during the past week, with many regions of the United States enjoying some of the lowest prices of the year.

The biggest decline in prices came for the Midwest, where the average price of a gallon of unleaded plunged nearly 12¢ per gallon to just under $3.20. Across the Gulf Coast, the price of gas is near the $3.00 mark, the lowest regional average in the country.

For the broader, nationwide average, the price of unleaded stands, officially, at about $3.29 per gallon, a drop of nearly 7¢ over last week, according to the latest survey from the Energy Information Administration.

One area where drivers are still experiencing higher gas prices is across the West Coast and California. Gas price averages in some areas are more than 30¢ above the national average, with a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway likely to set you back about $3.61 per gallon. Most Westerners, however, are paying about $3.42 per gallon; drivers across the Rocky Mountain states are divvying up slightly less, at $3.37 per gallon, on average.

The price of shipping goods over land has also become a little less expensive, with the price of diesel fuel dropping about 2¢ per gallon during the pas week. Overall, however, diesel prices are lagging regular gasoline in price declines. The average price of diesel remains in the high $3.80’s, with prices in some areas across the West Coast still well north of $4.00 per gallon, particularly in California.

However, the current price trend is likely to continue, and that will bring further relief to regular drivers as well as truckers, going forward. As the price of crude  oil continues falling, the retail price at the pump will follow suit, typically within a couple of months.

However, crude prices have been mixed in recent weeks. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is now well off it’s yearly highs, closing Tuesday at $97.46 for December delivery. However, Brent Light Sweet Crude remained well above the 100-dollar threshhold, primarily because of unrest in Libya this week. That political instability has shaken markets, but it has not caused a run-up in fuel prices like investors witnessed in August, when concerns in both Libya and Syria drove speculation of supply disruptions.

Even so, the EIA has predicted the winter driving season will begin with gas prices at their lowest levels of the year. The EIA is further forecasting gasoline prices to continue falling into 2014, with a brief uptick in January, which is normal for the start of a calendar year.
Gas price projections for 2014

Perhaps the best news for 2014 projections is for the truckers. Diesel prices, which have hovered near or above $4.00 per gallon for the past two years, are projected to finally fall to around $3.76 per gallon, on average, in the coming calendar year. However, those projections are subject to considerable fluctuations due to supply and demand issues, particularly where it concerns refinery capacity and the potential for supply disruptions during the winter.

EIA diesel price projections for 2014

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Gas Prices For October 21, 2013

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Gas prices across the U.S. slipped upward about a penny per gallon during the recent week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA report shows the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is now about $3.36 per gallon, although many areas are enjoying substantially lower prices, particularly the Gulf Coast states, where the price of gas is about $3.12 per gallon.

The slight uptick in prices goes against the longer-term seasonal trend of lower prices, overall, for most U.S. drivers, and it is not expected to continue, according to a report this week in USA Today. That trend is being driven largely by lower futures prices, which fell below $100 per gallon this week.

Futures prices have been slipping considerably in recent weeks, although periodic price disruptions have caused spikes in futures trades, particularly where it concerns North African and Middle Eastern supplies. But the production of oil elsewhere, particularly in the United States, has helped offset those scares. Refineries are also now producing cheaper grades of gasoline for winter driving, which also contributes to the lower cost of fuel.

For drivers nationwide, the price of gas did, in fact, fall in a number of regions during the past week, including the West Coast and California, the Rocky Mountain states and for drivers in the Central and Lower Atlantic states. The cost of fuel dipped by about 4¢ per gallon across the West Coast, and about 3¢ per gallon across the Rocky Mountain states and New England, regions where the price of gasoline is still hoveing closer to $3.50 per gallon.

For truckers and other drivers of diesel-powered vehicles, the price of fuel was basically flat during the past week. The average U.S. price of diesel fuel was flat this past week, with some regions showing a penny per gallon increase in prices and others showing a dip of a penny. Overall, the average price of diesel is about $3.89 per gallon, which is identical to last week.

Year over year prices continue to provide a longer-term view that augurs great news for drivers in the weeks to come. Some analysits believe the price of gasoline is likely to continue falling through the winter months, driving the price of gas to the lowest levels drivers have enjoyed since 2010. However, that prediction could prove folly if a frigid prediction by Farmer’s Almanac proves true.

Farmer’s Alamanac predicts an especially frigid and wet winter season in the coming months, which means heating oil and natural gas supplies are likely to be strained under heavy demand. If home heating oil demand spikes, the prices in related, broader energy markets could come under pressure to increase.

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With Government Reopened, We Report New Gas Price Data

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The cost of gas is not likely to be a mystery to anyone who is filling up their tank, but official reports from the Energy Information Agency about gas prices were delayed this week due to the government shutdown. After congressional Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement Wednesday night to reopen government, the EIA followed the next day with its weekly gas price survey.

The price of a gallon of regular unleaded was flat across the Midwest and Lower Atlantic states, but prices were mostly down in every other region. The average price of a gallon of gas dropped by about a penny, on a nationwide basis, but there were price declines of as much as 5¢ per gallon, particularly across New England, the Rocky Mountain West and the broader West  Coast region.

The price of diesel fuel also fell during the week, with the average price of a gallon of diesel down by about a penny, although prices in the Midwest and Rockies went down by as much as 3¢ per gallon. Truckers and other diesel car drivers are paying, on average, about $3.88 per gallon.

The year over year gas price comparison continues to show a remarkable trend. In some places, particularly on the West Coast, the price of a gallon of gas is down by as much as 71¢ compared to this time last year. The average among us is paying about 47¢ per gallon less for fuel this year. Diesel prices are down about 26¢ per gallon, when compared with October 2012 levels.

EIA-is-now-closed-sm
The EIA sent this email to notify members of the media the regular energy reports, including the weekly gas price survey, would not be published until the government shutdown ended.

This week’s report was delayed as a result of the U.S. government shutdown. While the EIA weekly report was delivered October 7, after the shutdown was already in effect, appropriations for continued operations did not become exhausted until a few days later.

The Energy Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, sent an email to media October 12 stating, “EIA is closed due to a lapse in appropriations.  EIA will not update its website until the agency reopens.”

The consequence was the Monday evening reports did not get compiled or posted as usual. The EIA’s weekly pricing surveys are usually released during the evening every Monday. TurnpikeInfo.com typically posts the reports, with analysis, late Monday night or early Tuesday.

This week’s report was delayed until government reopened, which happened October 17.

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Government Shutdown May Help Gas Prices, But At What Cost?

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The price of gasoline continued falling across every region of the United States this past week, with the price of a gallon of unleaded fuel falling an average of 6¢ per gallon, on a nationwide level, to $3.37. The price data are included in this week’s survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Various regions had differing levels of price change, which is normal.

What is somewhat unusual is the relative equanimity found in those price declines, from one region to the next. Drivers on the West Coast, not including California, found the price of gas down by about 4¢ per gallon, while the largest price declines came in the Midwest, where the cost for fuel dipped by about 7¢.

The drop in prices has been welcome relief for drivers. Most of the gas prices across the U.S. spiked in June and July. Another spate of price increases happened during mid and late August, all against the backdrop of supply problems in Libya and the potential for a military showdown in Syria.

The focus of the next potential price disruption is already being seen in Egypt and Libya, this in the wake of a pair of covert operations in Africa over the weekend. U.S. special forces captured a wanted Qaeda leader in Libya, while another warlord was being sought in Somalia.

Oil futures graphic
Gas prices could be chained upward pressures due to geopolitical instability, even though domestic politics should bring down consumer demand and prices at the pump. Graphic: PhotoDune.net

Continued political unrest in Egypt, combined with the military operation in Libya, have caused futures traders to fear supply disruptions in those areas. Crude oil futures have been going back up in recent days, this after trading lower through most of September.

Sans the geopolitical instability in the Middle East, crude oil might be heading lower, this over fears of lower consumer demand in the face of a lingering government shutdown. Supplies from the North Sea have, at least, kept some price control on crude futures. North Sea crude is expected to reach peak supply levels in November.

Even amid the potential for short-term price increases, the longer-term trend has been one of extraordinary price declines. Overall, U.S. gas prices are down nearly 13% from their levels at this time last year. The average price of a gallon of uneaded, in early October 2012, was about $3.86.

Diesel car drivers and truckers are also paying less, both year over year and week over week. The average price of a gallon of diesel fell by 2¢ in most regions, with prices in the Central Atlantic and West Coast areas down by about 3¢.

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Cost To Drive Takes A Dive In September

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The price of a gallon of gasoline fell once again during the past week, with the average U.S.  price falling another 7¢ during the last week of September, according to the latest gas price survey from the Energy Information Administration.

The EIA report was released Monday,  before the U.S. government shutdown took effect at midnight. The report shows the price of gas was down in all regions of the United States, with drivers in the Midwestern U.S. enjoying the biggest price breaks. On average, Midwest fuel is down by nearly 11¢ per gallon in most places, which brings additional relief to a region stricken by unusually high prices during the summer.

September 2013 Gas Price Comparison
Gas finally fell nearly consistently through September, which was good news following the volatile price market in August.

The price of gas dropped an average of 18¢ per gallon, overall, in the United States during September, ending the summer in exactly the opposite fashion to the start of the season, when supply issues and refinery problems pushed prices higher. The price of regular unleaded started September around $3.61 per gallon, which was the U.S. average on September 2. The month closed with the price down to only $3.43 per gallon, but prices were much lower across the Lower Atlantic and Midwest states. For the latter two regions, the price of fuel plunged an average of 30¢ per gallon, or just about 9-percent.

California drivers are not getting much gas price relief, however. The price of fuels in California is up for the month of September, which dragged the entire West Coast average higher for the month. When one takes California out of the equation, the price of gasoline on the West Coast still only declined by about a nickel per gallon, far less than most other regions.

The Rocky Mountain states fared only slightly better, with the cost of a gallon of gas dipping by about 8¢ per gallon, significantly less than the U.S. average and only about 25% of the decline enjoyed by many drivers in the nation’s mid-section.

For truckers, the price of gas was also down this week, according to the EIA survey report. The average price of a gallon of diesel was down by about 3¢ per gallon in nearly all regions, except the Rocky Mountain states, where the price dropped by only about a penny in most areas. The cost of operating a tractor-trailor rig is lower, however, than at this time last year.

Nationwide, the cost of a  gallon of diesel is down by about 16¢ from the 2012 level, with prices dopwn by as much as a quarter per gallon on the West Coast and nearly 30¢ per gallon in the Rocky Mountain states.

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