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.

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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.

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Gas Prices Rise, But Pace Of Increase Slowing

Third Consecutive Week Of Price Hikes May Only Be Beginning

Gas price trend for week of February 23, 2015The price of gas increased another six cents on the week, according to the latest report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The weekly survey of districts shows the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is now $2.33, up 19¢ in the past three weeks. The weekly price increases were led by shocking hikes across California and the broader West Coast Region, where prices jumped 14¢ and 9¢, respectively. Price increases across the rest of the nation were either at or below the national average increase of 6¢ per gallon.

Diesel Increasing In Price The Same Way It Declined: Slowly

For truckers, the price of diesel also increased, but not as intensely. The nationwide average cost for a gallon of diesel is now $2.90, up about 4¢ on the week. The price of diesel came down sooner than its regular gasoline counterpart in 2014, but it did so at a slower rate than gas. As unleaded fuels have increased in price, the diesel price increases have also been moving at a slower pace, which means somewhat less volatility, at least at the retail level.

Crude Volatility And Summer Blends Influencing Gas Prices

The price changes are reflective of continued uncertainty in the crude oil futures markets, which have found a broad trading range during February. A supply glut is forecast to persist through at least the second, and most likely the third quarter, according to industry analysts, which was a significant part of the precipitous declines seen since July. Both Citigroup’s Edward Morse and Vitol Group’s Ian Taylor opined two weeks ago that crude oil prices were still likely to trend lower until later this year. They disagreed on the timing of a future upward move in crude, but the consensus was that the oversupply causing the downward price pressure would continue until well into the summer.

Tri-State Tollway view from the Hinsdale Oasis

This summer view of the Tri-State Tollway, near Chicago, may seem like a distant memory now, but refinery operators are already switching to output summer gasoline blends, contributing to higher prices.

The other factor is the summer fuel blends, themselves, which reflects increased refining costs for producers. That element is likely the greatest issue for consumer prices at the moment, as this is the time refineries are switching over to summer blends for the coming driving seasons.

The summer fuel blend issue aside, supply is expected to remain quite plentiful, which could put an upward limit on the current price increases. Vincent Piazza of Bloomberg Business reported February 18 shale production continues to increase, even in the current environment. The reason is the efficiency of drilling sites versus their older counterparts, many of which have been closed down in the past year.

Year On Year Prices Still Much Lower

For consumers, the price of gas is still far cheaper today than it was at this time last year. On average, most drivers are paying about $1.11 less for a gallon of gas than at this time in 2014. For truckers, the nationwide average price is down by about the same amount, at $1.12.

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Gas Prices Surge Second Consecutive Week

After Months Of Decline, Prices Rebound Amid More Stable Crude Prices

Gas price trend for week of February 16, 2015The price of gas took another leap higher during the past week, according to the latest report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The weekly E.I.A. report shows the cost of gas jumped eight  cents last week, and that followed a week in which prices jumped 12 cents per gallon. In all, however, the price of gas is still significantly lower that it was at this time last year. As it stands, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.27, which is 23¢ higher than where gas settled at the end of January.

West Coast drivers suffered the biggest price increase, by region, during the week. The E.I.A. survey shows consumer fuel costs jumped 15¢ per gallon, by far the highest increase nationwide. The runner up, the Gulf Coast states, had a price increase of nine cents per gallon.

Prices along the Gulf Coast have been rising faster than other regions. Photo: Eric Scallion.

Prices along the Gulf Coast have been rising faster than other regions. Photo: Eric Scallion.

The numbers by state are equally dramatic. In California, which lead the West Coast price surge, the coast of a gallon of gas soared over 17¢. In Florida, where early spring break travelers will soon be arriving for vacation, the cost of filling up rose 12¢ per gallon.

Truckers Hit With Less Costly Price Increase

Diesel prices are also rising, but not as severely. The average cost of a gallon of diesel, nationwide, settled at $2.87 this week, which is up three cents over last week. However, like regular unleaded, diesel prices went up considerably more along the West Coast, particularly California, where prices were up eight cents per gallon.

Crude Oil Prices More Stable, At Least For The Moment

The current price rebound in gas and diesel can be attributed, at least in part, to the leveling of crude oil prices, which had been in a free-fall for several months. However, both West Texas Intermediate and Brent Crude have stabilized. WTI, a domestic futures benchmark, has been trading in a range between $48 and $54 per barrel for the past two weeks. Brent has been trading in a wider range, but traders have been bidding Brent higher, unlike WTI. What is more, Brent closed above $60 per barrel for two consecutive sessions this week before sliding just under that key threshold in Wednesday trading.

Year On Year Gas Prices Still Considerably Lower

Meanwhile, as much as gas prices have done an about face in recent weeks, the year-on-year numbers are still staggering in their consumer favoritism. The average driver is currently paying about $1.10 less for a gallon of gas than last year at this time, and some regions are enjoying prices that are about $1.25 less than a year ago, including New England and the Rocky Mountain region.

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Gas Prices Do High-Octane About Face

Government Report Shows Retail Prices Jump As Crude Rebounds

Gas price trend for week of February 9, 2015In a stunning reversal of course, gas prices lurched upward more than 12¢ on the week as crude oil prices finally leveled off and began to rebound from a six-month period of decline. That means a reversal of fortune, of sorts, for American drivers, as consumer prices are matching the crude oil pricing trend. The weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the national average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is now $2.19, up from $2.07 last week and a low of $2.04 just two weeks ago.

Regional Prices Spike In West and Midwest

Prices across the West Coast soared on a spike in California gas prices. Retail gasoline in the Golden State hit an average of $2.63 this week, up from $2.44 last week. That spike in costs helped drive the overall West Coast average 7¢ higher to $2.47 per gallon. The Rocky Mountain States bumped the Gulf Coast survey region to become the cheapest place to buy fuel. Average unleaded price across the Rocky Mountain states settled at $1.95 last week. Drivers in Gulf Coast states are paying an average of $1.98.

Service plaza on Indiana Toll Road

Gas prices across the Midwest, like at this station on the Indiana Toll Road, soared as much as 20¢ per gallon on the week.

Midwest gas prices tracked significantly higher for the second consecutive week. A jump in prices last week pushed the broader U.S. average higher; in retrospect, that may become viewed as the portent of things to come nationwide. The Midwest price average is now $2.17 per gallon, up from $1.94 only two weeks ago. As with last week, Ohio led the charge toward higher pricing with a 20¢ per gallon increase in prices, and that beats last week’s 14¢ increase. Minnesota drivers were lashed with a 16¢ per gallon price hike.

Crude Oil Prices Change Direction After Six Months

While futures prices scarcely moved in Monday trading, both domestic and overseas futures indices have been moving higher since January 29, at time when both West Texas Intermediate and Brent Crude were trading below $50 per barrel. WTI closed at $52.43 Monday afternoon, while Brent was at $57.98 per barrel.

The rebound in crude prices is not being called a recovery, however. In fact, a report from Citigroup on Monday, coupled with a warning from the world’s largest independent oil trader, suggests the price of crude could be set to fall into the $30 to $35 per barrel range. Executives of both Citi and The Vitol Group warned Monday that continued oversupply in the United States would drive prices significantly lower, despite slowing spending overseas.

Citigroup’s Edward Morse, head of the company’s global commodities research, wrote that U.S. production levels will likely remain high through the third quarter, putting downward pressure on crude oil prices, particularly WTI, the U.S. domestic benchmark. The Vitol Group’s Chief Executive, Ian Taylor, concurred, in an independent opinion. Taylor said Monday he believes it possible another downward move in crude oil is coming, and he said U.S. production was the driving force behind that potential. Taylor said the market looks long for the first half of the year, but he predicted the oil market will “move into balance” in the second half of 2015.

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Spike In Midwest Gas Prices Brings National Average Up

Price Hikes In Ohio Rival Winter’s Brutality

Gas price trends for week of February 2, 2015A 14¢ surge in the price of gasoline in Ohio, coupled with significant gas price increases across the Midwest, contributed to a substantial about face in average prices for the region. The spike in prices was so significant, it pushed the national average gas price upward for the first time since the September 1, 2014 pricing survey. The latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is now $2.07, nationwide, essentially reversing last week’s price gain. But the numbers do not tell the entire story.

Removing the Midwestern region from the pricing formula, U.S. average gas prices would have gone down over 6¢ to settle at an average of $1.98. Prices in nearly all other survey districts were down, and while the pricing declines have slowed in recent weeks as crude oil prices stabilize and even rally, most drivers are not feeling the seasonal pinch on their wallet like they did last year at this time.

Diesel Fuel Prices Continue Falling

Diesel fuel pumpMeanwhile, diesel fuel continued to fall at a fair pace, as the U.S. average price for a gallon of diesel dipped to $2.83, down about four cents on the week. The prices in the New England states increased by a penny, but prices in all other regions were down. The West Coast, in particular, enjoyed a price drop of nearly 6¢ per gallon, while prices across the Lower Atlantic were down over 4¢.

The gas pricing trend, sans the anomalous Midwestern averages, has continued to favor the consumer, despite the fact crude oil prices were no longer declining at their formerly precipitous rate. In fact, West Texas Intermediate has rallied, along with U.S. domestic crude and Brent, over the past three trading sessions. Tuesday’s rally was so significant, it brought U.S. domestic crude back over the $50 per barrel mark. WTI crossed that threshold on Monday.

Crude Oil Could Turn Lower, Despite Recent Rallies, Says Expert

However, at least one market watcher tells CNBC he forecasts additional lows for crude oil. Stephen Schork of The Schork Report told the financial news network that he believes the current rally is just a “dead cat bounce,” and that crude oil still has significant declines ahead of it.

He pointed out that global daily demand has fallen by 1.6-million barrels of oil each day, and without demand, prices can not recover. “The bottom line here is, we do not have enough demand, and the demand is going to be weak for the next two to three months, and we have too much supply,” he said.

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Gas Prices Continue To Fall, But Declines Are Slowing

Prices Rise In Midwest And Gulf Coast

Gas price trend for week of January 26, 2015The price of gasoline continued to fall during the past week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The weekly E.I.A. fuel price survey shows the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is now $2.04, down about three cents from last week. However, the more weighty price declines that have become weekly faire at retail gas stations is slowing. In fact, prices increased in two survey regions, the Midwest and the Gulf Coast.

For drivers across the nation’s midsection, fuel costs nudged upward about two cents per gallon, while prices were up about a penny per gallon along the Gulf Coast. That price increase offset large declines seen along the West Coast, where prices fell another seven cents per gallon during the past week. However, when you factor California into the West Coast, prices only went down about a nickel per gallon. Prices were down about five to six cents across New England and the Mid Atlantic States, and there were much larger declines seen along the Lower Atlantic States, where the average price for gas is now $2.17.

Diesel Continues To Decline, But At Slower Pace

Freeway SnowThe cost of diesel fell at a more robust pace, compared to its unleaded counterpart, although price declines for diesel have also begun to slow considerably. Prices dropped about seven cents over the past week, slipping to a $2.87 national average. The lowest costs were found across the Gulf Coast and Midwest, where prices were averaging $2.79 and $2.80, respectively. The cost of diesel in much of the New England and Central Atlantic regions remains above $3.00 per gallon, as do prices in California. The broader West Coast region is enjoying prices down at $2.76 per gallon.

Crude Oil Remains Depressed

The price of crude oil continues to remain depressed, both on foreign and domestic exchanges. West Texas Intermediate was trading down on the New York Mercantile Exchange again Tuesday morning, this after attempting to level off during the past week. Prices were down over two percent in early trading. WTI is the domestic crude benchmark.

Meanwhile, Brent Crude was trading down slightly in trading on the Intercontinental Europe Exchange, where futures contracts continue trading below $50.

The decline in both Brent and WTI has resulted from the glut of oil, both due to high production by Middle Eastern nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, and by the tar sands and shale boom in the United States and Canada. The decline in demand overseas, due to a slowing economy, has also contributed to the precipitous decline of crude oil prices.

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Gas Prices Keep Falling At Rate Of Penny Per Day

National Average Gas Price On Verge Of Going Below $2.00

Gas price trend for week of January 19, 2015The cost of a gallon of gasoline kept declining at the rate of a penny per day, on average, during the past week, according to the latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The nation’s gas now averages just $2.07 for each gallon of regular unleaded, although prices in many areas are well below $2.00.

The cheapest prices are found along the Gulf Coast, where the average cost of gas is only $1.84, followed fairly closely by the Rocky Mountain survey region, where prices are $1.91 per gallon. The Midwest is averaging $1.92 per gallon. While the remainder of the survey regions have prices above the $2.00 threshold, even the most costly gas, found on the West Coast, is now only $2.38 per gallon.

Gas prices have continued to decline even as crude oil prices have finally leveled off, somewhat. The retail cost of fuels had been following the precipitous decline of crude since the middle of summer, when gas prices were in the high $3.00 ranges, and well over $4.00 in some parts of the country. Such prices seem almost nightmarish in the wake of the today’s cheap prices.

Diesel Slips Below $3.00 Per Gallon

Diesel fuel pumpMeanwhile, the price of diesel has slipped under $3.00. The national average for diesel is now just $2.93 per gallon, with some survey regions enjoying prices as low as $2.83, as in some parts of the West Coast, though not in California. The Gulf Coast region has the lowest overall price for diesel, where the prices are averaging about $2.84 per gallon.

Overall, the year-on-year price changes are substantial. For truckers, the cost of a gallon of diesel is about 94¢ less than this time last year. For commuters, the cost of a gallon of regular gas is now $1.23 less than at the start of 2014; however, the price decline since the middle of the summer is even greater.

During the past year, the nation’s average gas price, according to the E.I.A., topped off at $3.71, at the end of April, 2014, and again at $3.70, at the end of June. Those levels are $1.64 and $1.63 higher than the current price average of $2.07. Whether prices will continue falling, however, remains to be seen. The reason is that crude oil prices appear to have halted what had been a calamitous fall since the middle of summer.

Crude Prices Relatively Stable After Disastrous End To ’14

West Texas Intermediate, the domestic crude benchmark, has been hovering between $46 and $50 per barrel since about January 6; Brent, the overseas index, has also been more stable since the 6th of January, trading in a range between $48 and $52 per barrel. However, both indices are still trending slightly lower, albeit at a much slower pace than the latter half of 2014.

The likelihood of crude oil rebounding enough to halt the gas price decline remains uncertain, but at least one OPEC minister told an economic summit meeting in Davos, Switzerland he expected prices to normalize soon. Without providing a timeline, OPEC’s secretary-general, Abdullah al-Badri, said he believed crude prices would begin rising as investment firms scaled back their exposure in future production.

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Gas Prices Keep Falling, Though Not Quite As Fast

Cost To Drive Getting Cheaper By The Day

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an abbreviated report, as we were attending a domain development conference at the normal time of publication.

Gas price trends for week of January 12, 2015The cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline continued to decline over the past week, according to the weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The E.I.A. chart shows the decline in prices has slowed somewhat; however, even at its current pace, the cost of gas is coming down at the rate of one penny per day. At this pace, the so-called official price of gas, the E.I.A.’s national average, will slip below $2.00 per gallon well before the end of January.

The Gulf Coast states reclaimed their regional dominance as the low-price leader, where gasoline is now just $1.91, on average. However, the Rocky Mountain region and the Central Atlantic states are leading the way in overall price movement, with week-on-week declines of 13¢ and 12¢, respectively.

For truckers, diesel prices continued their downward pace during the past week, declining another 8¢, on average, from the previous week. The average cost of a gallon of diesel is now just $3.05. As with regular gasoline, prices along the Gulf Coast are the lowest, with the average being only $2.96. The costliest diesel fuel is found along the Central Atlantic coast, with prices generally averaging about $3.24 per gallon.

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Gas Prices Fall Further As Oil Futures Collapse

Gas Officially Below $2.00 in Midwest and Gulf Coast

Gas price trend for week of January 5, 2015The price of a gallon of gas is cheaper than at any time in the past six years, with the official U.S. gas price now down to a mere $2.21 per gallon, off almost nine cents from last week’s price, and down $1.50 since the end of June 2014. The current pricing is detailed in the weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The regional average gas prices in the Midwest and Gulf Coast states are now officially below $2.00 per gallon, with the Midwest enjoying gas averaging about $1.97 and the Gulf Coast drivers enjoying gasoline at $1.99.

The price of gas continues to follow the track of crude oil, which has collapsed under the weight of strong supply and weak overseas demand. West Texas Intermediate crude, WTI, fell below $50 on Monday, triggering a massive stock market selloff. WTI was trading just over $48 per barrel in early Tuesday trading, and the overseas crude, Brent, was trading just above $51. By comparison, both futures indices were trading well above $100 per barrel over the summer, with Brent pushing past the $110 boundary at one point.

Gas prices below $2.00 in the U.S.

Gas prices are below $2.00 in many states. Photos credits (from left): Shirlice Irick, Ben Irick, Eric Scallion.

However, domestic oil production in the U.S., combined with high output from OPEC member states, has resulted in a glut of oil at a time when the broader global economy is slowing. The result is high output and lower demand, translating into very low retail gas prices. However, there is consensus among Arab OPEC nations that crude will return to between $70 and $80 per barrel by the end of the 2015.

Anticipating A Crude Oil Rebound

Reuters quoted unnamed OPEC ministers last week, most of whom agree the current decline in prices will stabilize and “find new equilibrium” by the end of the year. The sources told Reuters the reason they expect a turnaround is that they do not foresee the global economy slipping into a new recession, but rather enduring a momentary period of slowdown before growing once more.

In the meantime, the travails of low crude oil prices will remain bad news for producers but good news for American drivers. One motorist in Texas told TurnpikeInfo.com he was able to fill up his small car for only $22, and that was using premium unleaded. For many drivers around the country, the cost of topping off the tank is about 40% lower than it was just six months ago.

Truckers Getting Big Break With Low Diesel Prices

That savings also translates to the hauling industry. Truckers have been enjoying slowly declining diesel prices for nearly a year, with the declines accelerating in recent weeks. As it stands, the average price of a gallon of diesel is now about $3.14, which is about 75¢ less than just a few short months ago. For a tractor-trailer with a 150-gallon tank, that translates into $113 in savings for every fill-up.

Region by region, the area with the highest diesel prices continues to be the New England and Central Atlantic states, where the cost is $3.29 and $3.30, respectively. California has the most expensive diesel at $3.34 per gallon.

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