The rising cost of gasoline and diesel fuel in the U.S. is setting records for the some of the largest one-week price spikes since the federal government began tracking fuel price data two decades ago.
The national average retail price for regular grade gasoline increased 19 cents between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, jumping from $3.19 to $3.38 per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). That marks the second largest one-week increase since the agency began tracking weekly retail gasoline price data in 1990.
The only week posting a larger one-week increase was in September 2005 when retail gasoline prices rose sharply due to Hurricane Katrina. However, the EIA stressed that current gasoline prices are still well below the all-time record of $4.11 per gallon, set on July 7, 2008.
Diesel fuel is also on a price roller coaster, EIA said, with the U.S. average price climbing over 14 cents per gallon over the same one-week period, rising from $3.57 to just over $3.71 per gallon. The largest spike occurred on the West Coast and particularly in California, totaling just over 16 cents per gallon.
Diesel in California now costs just over $3.96 per gallon on average, EIA noted – the highest in the nation – followed by $3.90 per gallon in New England, $3.89 for the West Coast as a whole, and $3.87 for the central Atlantic states
The agency pointed out that the rising cost of domestic and global crude oils remains the central reason behind those fuel price spikes, with a $10 per barrel change in the spot price of crude oil roughly translating into about a 24 cent per gallon change in the retail price of gasoline within about two months. About half of that price change usually occurs within the first two weeks of the crude oil price change, EIA said.
From the beginning of 2011 through February 18 – just before the Libyan crisis began – the spot price of Brent crude oil increased about $9, rising from $93 to $102 per barrel. Since then, the Brent price has jumped by a further $10, climbing to over $112 per barrel.
The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) warns that rising fuel costs will impose a big fiscal burden on trucking.
In 2010, ATA estimated that the trucking industry spent some $101.5 billion on diesel fuel – a 28% increase over 2009. And even before the current spike in crude oil prices, the truck lobby projected that motor carriers would spend roughly $20 billion more at the pump in 2011, for a total fuel bill of $121.5 billion.