Average U.S. fuel prices dropped this week, with diesel dipping the most by just over 2 cents a gallon. However, analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates that fuel prices should stay relatively high for the next several months at least.
The U.S. average for diesel dropped to $4.127 per gallon this week from $4.148 per gallon last week, with the largest dip occurring in the Midwest – a 3.4 cent decline to$4.021 per gallon. The Gulf Coast experienced a 2.5 cent decrease to $4.038 per gallon, with California and West Coast both experiencing a 2.2 cent dip to $4.418 and $4.389 per gallon, respectively.
Right now, diesel fuel costs are almost equal to the level experienced at the same time last year, with prices only 2.2 cents higher per gallon during the same week in 2011.
U.S. average gasoline prices also took a slight dive of 1.7 cents to $3.922 per gallon, meaning that prices are now 7.8 cents per gallon higher this week compared to the same period in 2011.
Gasoline prices increased in the New England and Rocky Mountains – by 2.2 cents and 1.3 cents per gallon, respectively – why declining in every other U.S. region, EIA noted. Prices fell the most in the lower Atlantic region (3.6 cents to $3.889 per gallon) the West Coast (3.2 cents to $4.171 per gallon) and the East Coast overall (2.1 cents to $3.928 per gallon).
Despite a downward revision in the agency’s forward-looking estimate for global oil prices, EIA still expects fuel prices – especially for gasoline – to increase, peaking next month in May.
The agency lowered 2012 forecast for the average U.S. refiner acquisition cost of crude oil by $2 to $112 per barrel. However, that’s still $10 per barrel higher than last year’s average price, the agency stressed.
By contrast, during the April-through-September “summer driving season” in the U.S. this year, regular gasoline retail prices are forecast to average about $3.95 per gallon – peaking in May at a monthly average price of $4.01 per gallon, EIA noted. The agency added that it regular gasoline retail prices to average $3.81 per gallon in 2012 and $3.73 per gallon in 2013, compared with $3.53 per gallon in 2011.
As a result, based on its projected increase in gasoline prices this year, EIA said that vehicle fueling costs for the average U.S. household will be about $250 higher in 2012 than they were in 2011.
The agency added that projected consumption of distillate fuel – which includes diesel fuel and heating oil – should average 3.85 million barrels per day this summer, up 2.3% from the same period in 2011; growth buoyed by continued strength in manufacturing output and foreign trade.