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Diesel's summer surge slows, U.S. average rises about a penny

Aug. 22, 2023
Monthlong fever breaks for trucking’s main fuel, settling at $4.389 per gallon for the week of Aug. 21, after increases in the previous four federal government reporting cycles of 13.9 cents, 11.2 cents, 22.2 cents, and 9.9 cents.

The midsummer 2023 ascent of the national average price for diesel fuel slowed considerably this week, as it rose just 1.1 cents to $4.389. Still, diesel prices are up more than 58 cents since the week of July 24, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The increases the last four weeks before this one for the week of Aug. 21 were 13.9 cents, 11.2 cents, 22.2 cents (the largest spike in 16 months), and 9.9 cents, sending the EIA average well above $4 and bringing it within about 50 cents of the record-high levels of last summer. U.S. diesel set the all-time EIA record of $5.81 per gallon the week of June 20, 2022, and spent much of the fall, winter, spring and early summer of 2023 gradually easing before surging again this steamy July and August.

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But trucking gets a reprieve and some stabilization this week with a bump of only about a penny. And only in a single region or subregion of the 10 that EIA tracks did diesel rise by double digits for the week of Aug. 21 (the Rocky Mountain region, where the fuel rose 10.6 cents to $4.50 per gallon). Trucking's main fuel had surged in most if not all of those EIA regions and subregions by double digits over the preceding four weeks on higher-priced crude oil and supply tightening by OPEC and fuel supply disruptions caused by temporary refinery shutdowns due to the scorching summer temperatures.

Over the past week, motor club AAA also saw the easing of U.S. diesel coming. On Aug. 22, AAA’s diesel average sat only 2.2 cents above last week, settling at $4.349 per gallon, after an increase of 12.4 cents the week prior.

Meanwhile, the increases of late in gasoline prices also abated for the week of Aug. 21, according to EIA's new numbers. The U.S. average for gas, used widely by consumers but also pumped by small fleets and work truckers in considerable quantities, rose 1.8 cents for this week to $3.868 per gallon. The gasoline average, however, sits only 1.2 cents below the sky-high levels of a year ago.

Diesel stabilizes in most U.S. regions, subregions

As it turns out, the Rocky Mountain region stood alone for the week of Aug. 21; no other EIA region or subregion rose by double digits. One, the Midwest, even declined by 1.5 cents to $4.302 per gallon. The increase for the week was 2 cents on the East Coast (to $4.422 per gallon), flat along the Gulf Coast (staying at $4.095), and 5.4 cents higher on the West Coast, where the fuel rose to $5.14 and which remains the only region of the country where it sits above $5 per gallon. That's mostly because historically high subregion California has $5.535-cent diesel on a 1.7-cent increase this week, according to EIA.

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