AAA Fuel Gauge Report | August 13, 2012
(WASHINGTON, August 13, 2012) Today’s national average price for a gallon of regular self-serve gasoline is $3.70. This price is eight cents more expensive than one week ago and 31 cents more expensive than one month ago. Last Thursday, August 9, for the first time in more than 100 days, the national average retail price at the pump moved higher than it had been on the same day the year prior. This premium widened over the weekend and today’s price is now ten cents more expensive than the same day last year. This year-over-year trend is illustrated in the below chart, with the 2012 national average dropping below the 2011 price on April 24 and rising back above last week.
While the national price at the pump continues to rise, it remains 24 cents below the yearly peak price for 2012 of $3.94 on April 5 and 41 cents below the all-time high of $4.11 on July 17, 2008.
Today’s price is nine cents cheaper than the same day in 2008, however prices were falling in August of that year and they are rising this year. On August 13, 2008 prices had fallen 11 cents since the start of the month and were on the way to a 21 cent total decline on the month. This August, prices have already risen 18 cents and are poised to end the month even higher. It is likely that, as soon as this weekend, the daily price will be the highest ever for that calendar day.
While the rising national average has made headlines, American motorists are more focused on the extent that changing prices at the state and local level ultimately impact their personal budgets. The last month has seen widely different price changes for different states. Motorists in Alaska (-14.6 cents), Colorado (-5.8 cents), Hawaii (-4 cents) and Utah (-3.8 cents) are currently are paying less than a month ago. It is a very different story for motorists in the 38 states that are paying at least 20 cents more than they were at this time last month.
Prices at the pump have been broadly driven by higher global crude oil prices, due to mixed news for the global economy and supply concerns from fresh geopolitical tensions with Iran, along with the seasonal increase in demand that comes with the summer driving season. However, state prices have seen significant regional price spikes on a spate of domestic supply and distribution issues.
At the end of July and beginning of August these disruptions were in the Midwest as refinery issues and a leak in the Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin squeezed supply and sent regional prices sharply higher. The national average from July 30 to August 6 rose 13 cents; however this rise was led by seven states in the Midwest that saw prices up more than 20 cents during the same period, led by Michigan (38.6 cents), Ohio (39.4 cents), Illinois (40.2 cents) and Indiana (45 cents).
Since August 6, the national average has risen eight cents per gallon, but again, the regional price changes have varied widely. Last week started with news on Tuesday that the Enbridge pipeline had been successfully restarted. However, news also broke on Monday night of a fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif. The 245,000 barrel per day refinery supplies an estimated 15 percent of California’s gasoline demand and the possibility of that facility being off-line for an extended period sent West Coast prices dramatically higher by week’s end. Prices in the same four Midwestern states (Mich., Ind., Ill. and Ohio) that had led the run-up the week prior have moved lower during this period, following the Enbridge restart — led by Ohio where the state average price is 11.6 cents cheaper than on August 6. At the same time, prices in Washington state (17.3 cents), Oregon (19.3 cents) and California (23 cents) have moved dramatically higher and ultimately resulted in a national average that has risen for 16 consecutive days.
While domestic supply and distribution issues have impacted state and regional prices during the last month, higher oil prices continue to be a rising tide pressuring national pump prices steadily higher. Last week marked the first time since mid-May that the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has settled above $90 per barrel every day for a week. Although oil prices were flat today, this streak continued as the price of WTI was down just 14 cents to settle at $92.73 per barrel at the close of formal trading on the NYMEX.