Fuel prices tick up a bit ahead of holiday

Fuel prices tick up a bit ahead of holiday

Diesel and gasoline prices increased slightly this week in the U.S. ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend, according to data collected by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, the agency’s numbers also indicated prices for both fuels remain well below levels reached during the same week in 2012.

The EIA said the average U.S. retail pump price for diesel increased 1.3 cents this week to $3.913 per gallon, with prices up in every region of the county. Diesel prices remain above the $4 per gallon mark in New England ($4.044), along the West Coast ($4.072), and California ($4.156), the agency said, with the biggest one-week hikes in diesel prices occurring in California (2.2 cents per gallon) and in the Midwest (1.6 cents to $3.884 per gallon).

Yet EIA reported that diesel prices are significantly lower this year compared to the same week in 2012, with the average U.S. retail pump price for diesel 17.6 cents per gallon lower compared to last year. Specific regions also recorded larger declines compared to 2012 figures, with the biggest along the West Coast (28.1 cents per gallon cheaper versus 2012), California (down 25.1 cents), the Rocky Mountains (22.1 cents lower), and the Midwest (down 16.6 cents).

The average U.S. retail pump price for gasoline is up 2/10ths of a penny to $3.552 per gallon, EIA said, with increases reported in only three regions of the country: the Midwest (up 2.3 cents per gallon), the Gulf Coast (up 9/10ths of a penny but still home to the nation’s cheapest gasoline at $3.382 per gallon), and the Lower Atlantic (up 6/10ths of a penny).

The agency also reported this week that the world's consumption of gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heating oil, and other petroleum products reached a record high of 88.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2012, even though consumption declined in North America and Europe.

That’s largely due to rising demand in Asia, as Asia surpassed North America as the world's largest petroleum-consuming region with consumption increasing by 4.4 million bbl/d between 2008 and 2010, EIA’s data indicated. The rapidly industrializing economies of China and India fueled much of Asia's demand increase, growing 2.8 million bbl/d and 800,000 bbl/d, respectively.

If China's use of petroleum continues to grow as projected, it is expected to replace the U.S. as the world's largest net oil importer this fall, the agency pointed out.

Petroleum use in North America, which is dominated by consumption in the U.S., continues to follow a downward slope since 2005, EIA said, with higher oil prices and increased fuel efficiency of light-duty vehicles contributing to further reductions in U.S. consumption in 2011 and 2012.

Motor gasoline consumption, which makes up almost half of total U.S. liquids fuel consumption, fell by 290,000 bbl/d between 2010 and 2012 as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards led to improvements in vehicle fuel economy that outpaced highway travel growth, the agency added. 

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