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