Florida DOT Warns Of Possible Toll Scam

Collection Notices From Unknown “Toll Enforcement” Company Raise Red Flags, Prompt Warning To Drivers

FDOT Logo

A possible toll collection scam in Florida has prompted the state’s transportation department to issue a warning to drivers.

Drivers on Florida’s Turnpike and other state and county toll roads are being warned today of a potentially fraudulent collection effort on the part of a company called Toll Enforcement, LLC, which may be attempting to dupe drivers into sending payments. A news release detailing the scheme was sent to news media in Florida Tuesday afternoon, and it was accompanied by pictures of real toll violation notices. However, state officials stopped short of calling the  collection an outright toll scam.

“We’re calling it an alleged fraud collection practice until we have proof that it’s otherwise,” said Chad Huff, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation. Mr. Huff made is comments during an interview with TurnpikeInfo.com. “It’s better to say it’s a company that’s operating that we’re not familiar with.”

However, FDOT is requesting anyone who receives a notice from Toll Enforcement, LLC to immediately contact the Sunpass operations center by calling 888-865-5352. State officials say they will send any evidence they receive to law enforcement. “We work closely with Florida Highway Patrol, and Miami-Dade Police Department seems to have taken quite an interest in it,” Mr. Huff said. Miami-Dade’s interest may be due, in part, with the fact another company was reportedly targeting drivers in South Florida just last year. That company was called Law Enforcement Systems, LLC, and it was sending similar notices, according to a series of forum posts on City-Data.com.

Real Toll Collection Notices Contain Key Information About Driver And Their Car

Sample of a real toll collection notice

Example of a real toll collection notice. Key information, including the date, time and location of the toll violation, will be shown. Crucially, the driver’s car will be pictured, as well.

Mr. Huff said anyone who receives a legitimate toll violation notice will notice a number of key data points, including a picture of the owner’s car and license plate, something he said is missing on the notices from Toll Enforcement, LLC. “They always say the devil is in the details. Our documents always have a large amount of detail,” he said.

“Any document that is sent by FDOT, that is attempting to collect an unpaid toll, will clearly be marked with FDOT logos,” Mr. Huff added. “Probably more important than anything, it will contain an exact date, time [and] location of the infraction.” Examples of the real FDOT toll violations notices are shown on this post, which clearly spell out the data Mr. Huff has mentioned.

Huff pointed out another element that is indicative of the alleged fake collection notices is that they do not accept credit cards or personal checks. “Our toll collections, at least after the fact, make it very easy to pay using a credit card or a check,” Mr. Huff said.

Examples Of Real Toll Violation Notices

Front of a real toll violation notice.

Front side of a real toll violation notice sent by the Florida Department of Transportation.

reverse side of a real toll violation notice in Florida

Reverse side of a real toll violation notice sent by the State of Florida. Note the contact information at the bottom, which is missing from the alleged fake toll violation notices.

Sample of a real toll collection notice

Real toll collection notices in Florida will contain the date, time and location of the toll violation. Moreover, a picture of  the driver’s car will be shown.

reverse of another type of legitimate toll collection notice

Real toll violation notices include information about the Florida Department of Transportation. The alleged fake notices do not. The real notices also include contact information for the Sunpass Customer Service Center in Boca Raton, Florida.

 

 

 

Another Week, Another Gas Price Increase

Gas Prices Hit High For The Year, And Highest Levels In Six Months

weekly gas price trendThe cost of driving got a little more expensive, once again, during the past week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The weekly EIA survey shows the price of a gallon of regular unleaded went up an even 3¢, bringing the U.S. average price to $3.58. As always, some regions fared better than others, but this week that only means two regions did not experience an overall price increase. Seven of the nine regions surveyed did experience gas price increases, with the worst being in the Lower Atlantic states, where the cost of driving surged about 6¢, twice the national average.

The price of gas is now the highest it has been in six months, according to both the EIA and a survey by the American Automobile Association. While the AAA survey shows prices slightly lower than the EIA report, at $3.56 per gallon, the price of gas is, undisputably, much higher than it was just three months ago. At the start of the year, the cost of a gallon of gas was only $3.33; today, the lowest regional fuel prices to be found, on the Gulf Coast, are a penny higher than those reflected in the national average on January 6.

Even with the recent spate of price hikes, drivers are paying about 7¢ less for a gallon of gas than they were at this time in 2013. For drivers on the West Coast, not including California, the year-over-year cost at the pump is down about 15¢ per gallon. However, those gaps are considerably narrower than they were just a few weeks ago. As recently as February 17, the nationally-averaged year-over-year price differential was about 37¢.

Three Key Factors Affecting Consumer Gas Prices

Paying for gas at the pump

Gas prices could continue to rise on consumer demand and the cost of ethanol, which is at an eight-year high, according to Bloomberg.

The rising cost of fuel, at least for the moment, can be traced to a confluence of three factors, the first being consumer demand. The spring driving season is underway, with the spring break traffic continuing to take hold from the midwest to the eastern seaboard. That is likely to continue at least through Easter, which arrives later than usual this year, on April 20. The summer driving season is coming almost immediately after that, but with bids for domestic crude oil remaining near the $100 mark during the past several days, it is not likely that drivers will see much of a break in May, when the current crude oil contracts come due. The final ingredient that is impacting prices is the cost of ethanol additives, the cost of which is higher due to harsh winter conditions in the United States and the crisis in Ukraine. TurnpikeInfo.com first reported three weeks ago the Ukraine crisis could add to the cost of ethanol additives used for summer blends of gasoline. Bloomberg was reporting Tuesday that ethanol supplies were ten percent lower than they were at this time last year, and at least one analyst was quoted as saying it would be difficult for energy suppliers to handle the logistics of increasing the supply, at last for the moment. Worse, especially for consumers, is the fact ethanol prices are also at their highest levels in eight years, which could figure prominently into coming price fluctuations for drivers.

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Gas Prices Level Off Momentarily As Crude Trades Above $100 Again

After Weeks Of Rapid Increases, Gas Prices Rise At Slower Pace

weekly gas price trendThe cost of driving kept going up for most of us during the past week, according to the latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, the weekly gas price increases, which have been dramatic of late, slowed considerably for many regions during the current survey period, with the nationwide-average barely budging. Even so, some regions, like the Gulf Coast and the West Coast, endured another weighty increase in costs during the past week. The national average price for a gallon of gas, as of March 24, held steady at $3.55.

Drivers In Urban Cores Paying Much More Than National Or Home States’ Averages

For some states, particularly California, the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded neared the $4.00 mark, with many stations charging well above that figure. The average price of a gallon of gas in the Golden State is now $3.97; in other states, like New York, the price of gas is averaging about $3.75 per gallon. But state averages do not tell the entire picture.

In Florida, that $3.75 price point for the lowest-grade of unleaded is being charged to drivers at gas stations in many cities’ urban cores, even though the Sunshine State’s average per gallon price is $3.53 per gallon. In Fort Lauderdale, prices at some stations were as much as 23¢ higher than the state averages. Moreover,  weekly price increases have been moving at a faster pace than the national average.

Weekly gas price increases

Gas prices in Fort Lauderdale, like many cities, are higher than their home states’ averages.

Crude Inventories Rising, But Not At Biggest Storage Facility

U.S. Domestic crude oil inventories continued to rise during the past week, bringing the number of weekly increases of crude supplies to 10. Even so, the biggest crude inventory storage facility, located at Cushing, Oklahoma, saw another weekly decline of crude inventories. For the past seven weeks, inventories at Cushing have dropped about 29%, according to the EIA. However, many facilities and pipelines that have traditionally supplied Cushing have been able to bypass the facility and send their supplies directly to refineries on the east and west coasts, as well as to the Gulf of Mexico.

Even with an increase in broader crude inventories, nationally, overall gasoline inventories have been declining since the start of the year. In fact, gas inventories are down just over five-percent since the end of January, when a lag in consumer demand resulted in a short-term spike in supply. The EIA reports the United States currently has about a 26-day supply of gasoline, not including the strategic petroleum reserve. The current inventory is line with the inventory supplies compared with data from this time one year ago.

Crude Futures Markets Mixed On Domestic And International News

Meanwhile, crude inventory prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange were flirting with the century mark in midday trading Tuesday, with prices of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) briefly trading just over $100 per barrel before retreating in the early afternoon. The current trades are for May contracts. One analyst told Bloomberg News earlier Tuesday that he expected the WTI price point to drop as low as $95 per barrel by the end of the week, both on lower domestic demand and higher inventory data. Even so, broader concerns about overseas crude oil supplies could play a role in keeping prices closer to $100.

Reuters reported Tuesday afternoon that Libyan oil production would be cut another 80,000 barrels per day, bringing total output in the embattled nation to only 150,000 barrels per day. Lingering concerns about the crisis in Ukraine continued to weigh on futures prices, as well. The price of Brent Light Sweet crude moved higher during early Tuesday trading and remained over $107 per barrel in mid-afternoon trading.

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Gas Prices Continue Their Upward Trek As Spring Break Begins

Spring Season About To Begin With Drivers Already Paying More For Gas

weekly gas price trendThe price of a gallon of gas continue to get costlier during the past week, with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded now at $3.55, this according to the latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Gas prices have been on a steady upward climb for the past six weeks. The cost of a gallon of fuel was less that $3.30 per gallon at the start of February, but continued winter weather, geopolitical instability in North Africa and Ukraine, combined with rising global demand for crude oil, have all contributed to a continued spate of price increases.

The upward trend also shows no sign of coming to an end. Although domestic crude oil prices  finally slipped below $100 per barrel last week, they were pushing toward the century mark once more amid the escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia over Crimea, the apparent breakaway peninsula of Ukraine. The crisis in Ukraine has continued to weigh heavily on the price of commodities, particularly crude and natural gas. A significant portion of Europe’s natural gas supplies pass  through Ukraine, and the country is also a major supplier of corn stocks which are converted to ethanol. Ethanol is later blended into U.S. gasoline products for retail sale.

EIA graph of regional gas prices

The other problem pushing prices higher is the seasonal adjustment toward summer gasoline supplies. Crude oil supplies had been declining during the past couple of survey weeks, according to the EIA. With the spring and summer driving seasons just around the corner, springtime fuel costs traditionally increase. This year’s price increases are coming on top of existing and atypical price hikes that have plagued drivers so far this year.

Truckers Feeling More Pinch At The Pump

Diesel fuel costs are no better, either. The average price of a gallon of diesel fuel is about two cents less this week than last, but the overall trend has been higher for most of 2014. The current U.S. average price for a gallon of diesel is back down to $4.00, from $4.02 last week, but that figure is about nine cents higher than the start of the year.

For some regions, like the Central and Lower Atlantic regions, truckers are paying considerably more for fuel than even a few months ago, and the year over year numbers are downright dismal. Truck drivers in the Central Atlantic region are paying about 17¢ per gallon more for diesel than at this time last year, while the drivers in the Lower Atlantic states are paying about 10¢ per gallon more. At the national level, the price of diesel is about four cents per gallon less than at this time in 2013.

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Gas Prices Reach Over $3.50 As West Coast Gas Nudges Toward $4.00

Crude Oil Supplies Higher, But Overall Gasoline Supplies Are Lower

weekly gas price trendThe price of gas kept moving higher during the past week, according to the latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The weekly EIA report shows the price of an average gallon of unleaded gas in the U.S. is now at $3.51, up three cents from last week, extending the current spate of price increases to a fifth consecutive week. Of the ten weeks tracked so far in 2014, six have seen higher gas prices than the previous week. Overall, prices are up 21¢ per gallon, nationwide, during the past five weeks. That figure represents about $3.15 more at the pump, based on filling up a 15-gallon tank. On an annual basis, assuming a commuter is filling up twice per week, that comes to almost $328 more per year for gas. What is more, the price of gas is not likely to have stopped rising.

Crude Oil Price Barrels Downward, But The Cost Of Ukrainian Corn Could Stalk Markets

corn ethanol

Fear of increasing prices of of corn exports from an unstable Ukraine has added to the increase in gas prices, according to one analyst. Corn is refined into ethanol, which is blended into U.S. gasoline.

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil has finally begun to fall, after a meteoric rise last week that saw the futures index push to near $105 per barrel for April delivery contracts. WTI was trading as low as $99.64 per barrel around mid-day Tuesday, but prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange had risen late in the trading session. Nonetheless, it was expected WTI would close below $100 for the first time in nearly a month. Part of the reason for the decline in prices was an increase in crude oil stocks in the past week, and inventories were expected to be up this week, as well. The weekly inventory reports are issued every Wednesday.

However, the political and military crisis in Ukraine, which had combined with wild winter weather to push WTI and Brent Light Sweet Crude prices higher in the past few weeks, is still weighing on refineries. The reason is corn. Ukraine ships a large amount of corn to the United States, where it is refined into ethanol that is blended into fuels. Trilby Lundberg, who conducts the regular Lundberg gas survey each week, told CNBC the uncertainty in Ukraine had definitely become a factor in ethanol prices. However, she said the price increases that could be pinned on the Ukraine crisis would not continue affecting fuel prices in the United States unless the situation became markedly worse. Nonetheless, the upward pricing trend was not likely to end, primarily because the approaching change of seasons.

Approach Of Spring Break Brings No Break For Gas Prices

The coming spring and summer driving seasons, replete with summer blends of gasoline coming out of refineries in the next few weeks, means that prices will continue rising, most likely through May, according to Lundberg. While short-term price hikes may be smaller than recent weeks, Lundberg predicts the onset of peak driving season will bring higher demand for more expensive fuels, which typically happens in the early and mid spring.

Meanwhile, the cost of gas is still lower than at this time last year. The average price of a gallon of gas was about $3.71, measured nationally; and that was down $12¢ from 2012 prices. Even so, the EIA had predicted gas prices would decline through most of 2014, which has not manifest so far.

Depending on what happens in Ukraine, Brent Crude could surge higher, dragging WTI with it, bringing a new round of heavy-handed price increases for drivers.

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Gas Prices Keep Moving Higher, And Ukraine Crisis Is Not Helping

Gas Price Hikes Unabated As Futures Soar Amid Presence Of Russian Troops in Crimea

weekly gas price trendThe price of gasoline in the United States continued moving higher during the past week, continuing a trend of rising energy prices that has defied earlier government predictions of a drop in consumer prices through 2014. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s weekly price survey shows a gallon of regular unleaded gas is now $3.48, about four cents higher than last week and 15¢ higher than the start of 2014. While gas prices are still down from one year ago, the current upward run in prices had not been expected. First, a nasty series of winter cold spells has strained refineries and supplies of heating oil, propane, natural gas and kerosene, all vital sources of winter heating. Add to that the increased tensions Europe and Russia, and the result is a new rally in crude oil prices.

There was a meager spot of good news this week as gas prices fell slightly in the Lower Atlantic states, but that only served to tame what would have been a much higher average weekly price increase at the national level. As it was, the 4¢ weekly uptick was fed by price surges in the Midwest, where prices were up nearly 6¢; the Rocky Mountain states, where prices jumped 7¢; and along the West Coast, which also endured a 6¢ price hike.

Truckers enjoyed some stabilization of prices this week, with only the Rocky Mountain region suffering a noticeable increase in the price of diesel fuel. Overall, however, the national average price for a gallon of diesel remained at $4.02 during the  week. Prices increased slightly in California and the lower Atlantic states, while declining along the Gulf Coast.

Futures Surge Amid Russian Troop Movements In Crimea And Tension in Europe

The wicked winter weather in the United States had already pushed crude oil prices somewhat higher, and increased demand in China had also been contributing to a recent rally in energy futures. However, the crisis in Ukraine, reaching a new peak during the past few days, has moved traders to push the price of West Texas Intermediate to a new high Monday, with the benchmark domestic futures price closing up $2.33 per barrel, flirting with a $105 per barrel price point. That is a level not seen since the end of September. Brent Light Sweet Crude was over $111 per barrel, although that was down from intraday trades that were over $112.

The New Ukrainian Influence On U.S. Gas Prices

Protesters in Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, Ukraine – March 2, 2014: Protesters display posters against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the presence of Russian troops in Crimea. Source: Getty Images / iStock Photo.

The interim Ukrainian government’s ambassador at the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, distributed a letter to Security Council members Monday asserting Russia had sent about 16,000 troops into the autonomous Crimea region of Ukraine. Mr. Sergeyev said the Russians were moving to block and control key government and military posts in Crimea. In Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, protesters continued to demonstrate during the weekend against Russian intervention in the peninsular region, which is historically a Russian territory and is also home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The tensions pushed investors to shed stock holdings Monday and put money into energy futures, which has added to the soaring price of crude oil, a major driver in consumer gas prices going forward. WTI was as low as $93 per barrel in November, and one analyst predicted last week short term crude prices could spike between $110 and $113 per barrel. However, that prediction was made before the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

Part of the issue at hand, as tensions continue to mount, is that Russia is a major energy supplier to Europe. About 25% of Europe’s liquid fuels come from Russia, and half of Russia’s pipelines move through Ukraine, which has been economically unstable, in addition to suffering political volatility in recent months.

Supplies In Europe Stable For Now, But U.S. Inventories May Be Declining

While the United States and European leaders debate their response to Russia’s troop movements in Crimea, it was estimated Europe has enough natural gas storage to cover a disruption in supplies from Ukraine for about 45 days. A contributor to that storage surplus is the mildest winter for Europe since 2007. The result has been a higher-than-average inventory for the European Union, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe, a group of pipeline operators located in Brussels.

oil storage tanks

Investors were anticipating heating oil and diesel inventories in the United States would be down this week, possibly adding to new speculative investment in crude oil futures, which could drive futures and consumer gas prices even higher.

Quite the opposite situation was anticipated in the United States, where the Midwest and Northeast have endured their coldest winter in two decades, leading to dwindling stockpiles of heating oil and diesel, possibly as much as one-million barrels during the past week, alone. Bloomberg News was reporting Monday night that investor anticipation of Wednesday’s EIA inventory report were keeping prices inflated. However, Bloomberg also reported a technical indicator showed that WTI futures were overbought, which may lead to short term futures declines, after all. How that may affect drivers buying gas at the corner station remains to be seen.

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Editor’s note: This report has been corrected. The original story reported the weekly EIA inventory report would be released on Tuesday. The report is released every Wednesday.

Gas Prices Hit Five Month Highs As Cost Surge Continues

Mixed Forecasts Predict Crude Could Soar Or Be About To Top Off.

weekly gas price trendA bounty of uncertainty appears to be affecting the commodities trading floor these days, at least where it concerns the direction of crude oil prices. One thing is for certain, however, and that is we are all paying more for gasoline. In fact, the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration shows the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded spiked at $3.44, the first time it has been above $3.40 since the end of September. Drivers in many regions have been paying considerably more than the national average, though. The pricing news is turning ever more bitter in some survey areas, such as the West Coast, where the cost of a gallon of gas has now hit $3.65. At the state level, drivers in California, Colorado and Florida experienced the worst week over week price increases.

Region by region, the cost of driving is likely to continue to rise during March, primarily due to spikes in crude oil prices in February. Those increases were driven by dwindling supply, increased overseas demand and geopolitical instability. Some of that instability has waned, but a rash of political instability in Venezuela threatens to disrupt that supply source, and there are worsening supply problems in Libya, where daily production is now about 20-percent of what it was last summer.

Commodities Traders Divided About Crude Prices Going Forward.

All of this points to uncertainty about global markets going forward, which means the American pocketbook could take a hit. A number of factors could put upward pressure on futures prices, which would be bad news for drivers. Those pressures including lingering problems in overseas supply, which means North American oil production would have to quench more of the global thirst for fuel. That could mean, too, that earlier EIA forecasts for lower gas prices in 2014 will fall flat, leading to a return to the price points seen in early 2013.

$5 Gas Prices Before Year End? That Depends.

May 2011 gas prices

Gas prices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as they were in May 2011, two months after the WTI hit fresh highs. But prices then did not hit the $110 per barrel threshold, which one analyst is predicting could happen within the next three months.

The bigger issue, then, is how suppliers respond. Will production be increased to meet the anticipated growth in global demand, stabilizing the futures markets, or will demand exceed the ability of suppliers to keep pace? Sean Hyman of Moneynews told CNBC on Tuesday he expects demand will cause WTI to surge over the next three months, closing between $110 and $113 per barrel, further predicting WTI has the potential to go as high as $140 per barrel. Even if West Texas Intermediate rises to $113 per barrel, that could be enough to push retail gas prices up to and over $5.00 per gallon.

But Citigroup analyists say WTI has peaked for the quarter and, possibly, for the year. Edward Morse, the head of commodities research at Citigroup, predicted the price of WTI would rise in the second half of the year, but only after going through a series of declines during the rest of Q1 and through the second quarter. At the moment, WTI has come off its February highs, at least so far, but it remains above the crucial $100 per barrel threshhold.

Part of the reason for the about-face in WTI prices is an expected inventory boost, but that will not be known for certain until Wednesday morning. And while Citigroup is predicting the cost of WTI has hit a high for the first quarter of 2014, it did raise its overall WTI price target for 2014 by one dollar. Notably, Citi raised its Brent forecast for 2014 considerably, from $98 to $103, signaling an expected decline in overseas production.

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Gas Prices Shoot Higher, More Prices Increases Expected In March

Nasty Winter Weather, Political Instability and China Demand Drive Crude Futures Higher

weekly gas price trendThe cost of a gallon of gas jumped over 7¢ per gallon during the past week, according to the latest weekly survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA’s weekly report showed prices in all regions soared anywhere from 6¢ to over 10¢ per gallon. A consipiracy of factors has pushed the average U.S. price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline to $3.38 per gallon, their highest levels since the start of October 2013, when prices on a national level were at $3.37 per gallon.

The price increases are due in part to wicked winter weather, which has also caused a surge in natural gas prices. The increase in global demand has also contributed to higher prices on futures markets, namely the all-important West Texas Intermediate, which had been flirting with the $100 level for weeks. The WTI closed above $103 Wednesday afternoon at $103.31. The greatest overseas demand has come from China, which has offset a renewed availability of crude oil in the United States.

Gas Prices Likely To Surge On Futures Prices And More Cold Weather

oil refinery on frozen Mississippi

Oil refineries in the U.S. are struggling to keep up with demand for natural gas, heating oil, and renewed global demand.

The price of oil futures could go even higher as global demand continues to increase, and refineries are having particular difficulty keeping up with natural gas and heating oil demand amid a lingering winter across much of the United States. Another blast of cold air is expected at the end of the week and through the weekend, which will further strain refineries and  suppliers already struggling to keep pace with consumers’ needs.

Add to that the growing demand for oil in China, and a perfect storm of conditions exists to push the WTI Crude Oil index up to, and perhaps past, its 52-week high of $104.52, a level that was seen during the Syrian war scare crisis during late July and early August 2013. Late July prices peaked near $3.70 per gallon, a rate that is already perturbing drivers in many states, particularly California. Prices on Monday were measured at almost exactly that rate across the Golden State, which dragged the broader West Coast gas price average up to $3.57. Take California out of the equation, and the price of fuels on the West Coast is only $3.36 per gallon, just under the national average.

Truckers Feel More Pain At Pump, But Not As Bad As Last Week

The news for truckers was not nearly as bad as for drivers of gas-powered vehicles, but prices of diesel fuel in nearly all regions did increase during the past week, pushing the national average of a gallon of diesel to $3.99. Many areas, particularly New England and the Central Atlantic states, are paying considerably more, however. Prices in New England average about $4.37 per gallon, and the cost of diesel is about $4.36 per gallon across the Central Atlantic states. However, prices in each of those regions remained mostly stable during the past week, while increases affected most other regions. California and the Gulf Coast also enjoyed stable prices during the past week.

Year Over Year Prices Down Considerably

Despite what seems like a gloomy gas price report and forecast for American drivers, the price of fuel is down substantially from 2013 levels. At this time last year, the price of a gallon of unleaded was 37¢ higher, which would translate to about $5.55 more for every fillup, for a 15-gallon tank. In some areas, the price of gas is as much as 41¢ per gallon cheaper. But the numbers for truckers are more mixed. In some regions, like the West Coast and Gulf Coast, the price of diesel is down 30¢ and 28¢ per gallon, respectively. But the cost of fuel in the Atlantic region is up. For truckers driving through the Central Atlantic states, the cost of diesel is over 10¢ higher than at this time last year.

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Gas Prices Nudge Higher As Diesel Prices Head Close To $4 Per Gallon

Mixed Regional Numbers Still Add Up To Higher National Average

2014-02-10-trendThe cost of driving got a little more expensive, at least in terms of gas prices, during the past week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA weekly survey shows the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas increased about two cents to $3.31. Most drivers, except perhaps those along the West Coast and Midwest, will hardly notice a change in prices, which have been vacillating within one or two cents of their current levels for the past month. However, in the Midwest, where prices are typically quite volatile, the price of a gallon of fuel jumped nearly a nickel during the past week. Prices in California dragged the West Coast average higher by nearly three cents for most drivers.

Trucking Industry Hit Hard By Consecutive Weekly Price Hikes

Hauling goods over land became more expensive, again, during the past week, as the EIA reports the price of a gallon of diesel jumped anywhere from a penny in the West to over eight cents per gallon along the Atlantic Coast. Prices along the East Coast, a region plagued by horrific winter storms that have created myriad travel troubles, have jumped by as much as 22 cents per gallon in just two weeks. Meanwhile, truckers along the West Coast have enjoyed relatively stable prices of diesel fuel, unlike drivers of regular gas-powered vehicles. Only California has been witness to slight price increases in the western regions, and those tend to average only a penny per gallon.

Futures Hit The Century Mark As WTI Spikes

If anything other than weather is to portend higher fuel costs in the coming weeks, it is likely to be the March futures prices for West Texas Intermediate crude. WTI spiked to over $100 per barrel on Monday, and the critical futures index was trading over $101.25 close to the mid-day trading point on Wednesday, February 12. Brent Light Sweet crude is also higher, spiking once again during the past week to trade closer to $110 per barrel.

crude oil futures charts

A tale of two futures: Brent Light Sweet Crude has been more volatile than WTI, but both have continued to trend higher.

The key difference between the two futures indices is their trend line during the past month. While Brent has been subject to instability resulting from supply and political issues overseas, WTI, which is a domestic crude index has been on a steady climb since the middle of January. It has now surpassed its December highs.

China’s Thirst For Oil Drives U.S. Futures Higher

The price of futures has gone higher despite the fact there is an ample supply of oil for the U.S. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that demand in China was a major factor in the current futures price bids. “China’s imports of crude rose to 6.6 million barrels a day in January, up nearly 12 percent on the same month last year and the highest figure on record,” the AP reported.

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Gas Prices Dip Slightly, But Diesel Spikes Amid Winter Woes

Truckers And Haulers Bear Brunt Of Winter Price Increases

Weekly U.S. price trendThe price of gas barely moved during the past week, with the average U.S. price of a gallon of regular unleaded falling about a penny to $3.29, although the cost of fuel along the East Coast did fall about two cents per gallon. Price increases of about one to two cents in the Midwest offset the East Coast declines to keep the U.S. average from falling any further. The figures are detailed in the regular weekly gas price survey released by the Energy Information Administration.

Meanwhile, truckers felt a torrent of increases in prices at the pump, with the national average of the price of diesel rising almost five cents per gallon. But in the Northeast and along the Central Atlantic, which have been hard hit by winter storms of late, the cost of a gallon of diesel rose as much as 14 cents per gallon in one week. For truckers and other haulers, the price increases were a grim reminder of the volatility of diesel prices during the winter season, when refineries can sometimes struggle to keep up with demand for home heating oil, propane and natural gas.

Old Man Winter Pushes Distillate Demand Up By 500,000 Barrels Per Day

The EIA reported that demand for distillate consuption, a category of fuels that includes heating oil, had risen ballistically in the past four weeks. As of the end of January, refineries were pushing out an extra half-million barrels per day of distillate fuels. The EIA has further reported that inventories of distillates fell nearly 20% through January 24, with additional declines in inventory expected through the week as a new bluster of winter weather buries the Plains, the Midwest and the Northeast.

Blizzard

Apocalyptic winter weather conditions are playing havoc on diesel prices as much as they are causing treacherous driving conditions. Photo: PhotoDune.net for TurnpikeInfo.com.

The rise in diesel prices has been met with even higher surges in heating oil and propane costs. Home heating oil rose about 12¢ per gallon during the week last week, but propane prices soard by $1.05 per gallon last week, the biggest one-week increase since 1990, the EIA reported. Taken in their aggregate, the surge in demand and the corresponding increase in prices has meant drivers of diesel vehicles, particularly truckers, have suffered a hard hit at the pump.

Futures Prices Creeping Higher, Particularly For West Texas Intermediate

Meanwhile, futures  prices have been creeping higher during the past week. Contracts for West Texas Intermediate, for early March delivery, have been slowly edging toward the $100 per barrel mark, a dubious milestone not seen since the end of December. Prices have been hovering  between $96.67 and $98.07 per barrel for the past several days, although prices at mid-week were down slightly.

For Brent Light Sweet Crude, the news is slightly different, with the benchmark’s intercontinental exhanges hovering in a narrow range near $106 for the past several days.

DOWNLOAD THE WEEKLY EIA GAS PRICE SURVEY

Editor’s Note: The original story reflected the national average price of a gallon of gas at $3.30 per gallon, which was incorrect for the week of February 3. The price has been corrected to $3.29 per gallon.