March usually means the arrival of Spring Break, but it could also herald a momentary break from those continually rising gas prices, according to the latest gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For the first time in several weeks, the average per-gallon cost of a gallon of gas actually declined, although there was no such relief in the Rocky Mountain states or the U.S. West Coast.
Still, the week-over-week dip in fuel costs could not have come at a better time for many living along the Eastern seaboard and in the Midwestern states, where blasts of cold air have pushed up energy consumption. The average price for a gallon of gas dropped by about 2 ½-cents per gallon, but prices fell by nearly twice that rate on the Gulf Coast and Lower Atlantic States.
The relief was extended to truckers and fleet drivers, too, as diesel fuel prcies dropped about 3¢ per gallon during the past week. In an extra line of good news, the price declines affected all regions of the United States, unlike regular petroleum prices.
The spate of continuing gas price increases in the United States has continued, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest weekly gas price survey showed the West Coast and Deep South faced the highest week-over-week price increases of the year, so far. Some areas witnessed gas prices increasing by nearly 10-cents per gallon, putting greater strain on drivers filling up at the pump.
The relentless rise in gas prices finally caused the EIA to issue a news release today explaining the causes of the rising gas prices. The EIA statement details many of the issues outlined on TurnpikeInfo.com news last week, including the increasing cost of crude oil and the reduction of refinery capacity in the United States.
Meanwhile, one bright spot in the weekly survey was for Midwestern drivers, who have suffered higher-than-average price increases in per-gallon fuel costs since the start of the year. This week’s survey showed gasoline in the Midwest actually dropped nearly 3¢ per gallon, although prices remained over 11-cents per gallon higher than one year ago.
For truckers and other drivers of diesel-powered vehicles, the price of diesel continued to increase, albeit at a slower rate than has been seen since the end of 2012. Weekly diesel averages were up less than a penny per gallon. However, compared to this time last year, diesel prices are up by about 11-cents per gallon.
The cost of a gallon of gas continued its unrelenting march to $4.00 per gallon this week as the average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel reached $3.75, up an average of 11¢ per gallon for each of the past two weeks. The price of a gallon of gas has gone up about 50¢ since Christmas Day, less than two months ago, making the average cost of a fill up about $8.00 more expensive for the average U.S. driver. The price is based on a 16-gallon tank filled from near empty. The price of fuel is detailed in this week’s survey from the Energy Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy.
While the cost of gasoline rises, the cost of diesel fuel has also continued to go up week after week since the start of the year. The average price of a gallon of diesel fuel topped out at $4.33 per gallon, for truckers and diesel car owners driving in New England this week. For the U.S. as a whole, the cost is about $4.16 for each gallon of diesel.
Part of the reason for the summer-time gas costs during February can be traced to a reduction in refinery capacity. Commodities trader Dennis Gartman told CNBC Tuesday, February 19, he believed the current cost of gas was traced to what he called an “extraordinary short squeeze” caused by BP and Hess each taking down large refineries. Gartman said the reduced refining capacity pulled “almost a half a million barrels of crude oil out of the market.” BP’s refinery in Whiting, Indiana is offline for routine maintenance, but the Hess refinery in New Jersey, which was closed in January, is slated to remain offline. That could create longer-term issues for fuel supplies.
The American Automobile Association reported the refinery closures are compounded by the fact crude oil, itself, is at nine-month highs, with Brent crude at over $119 per barrel. But, there is no consensus on just how high gas prices will rise or whether the current uptick in prices will continue at its current pace. Gartman told CNBC’s Fast Money he did not expect the fuel prices to keep going up; however, John Kilduff of Again Capital in New York told reporters Tuesday he would not be surprised if gas prices hit $5.00 per gallon.
Gas prices across most East Coast and Midwestern states nudged upward slightly during the past week, according to the latest fuel survey by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. The average U.S. price per gallon of Regular Unleaded was at just over $3.30 per gallon, according to the January 14 survey release, up from just under $3.30 last week. Fuel prices for the East Coast and New England were much higher, however, most drivers paying about $3.45 per gallon, a full 15¢ per gallon more than the U.S. Average.
Diesel prices, however, nudged down slightly, a good sign for truckers who typically spend well over $4.00 per gallon for fuel, even though diesel is well known to be much more plentiful and easier to refine than gasoline. The East Coast average for a gallon of diesel fuel was just over $4.00 per gallon, with New England states enduring the highest prices for diesel, at $4.17 per gallon.