Driving Costs

Gas Prices: AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report | March 4, 2013

Michael Green Contact Tile(WASHINGTON, March 4, 2013) Today’s national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.75. This price is 25 cents more than one month ago, but it is three cents less expensive than one week ago and two cents less than the average price one year ago. Yesterday was the first time since Jan. 31 that the national average has fallen below the price for the same day in 2012.

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The national average increased for 36 consecutive days from Jan. 17-Feb. 22. During this streak retail prices surged 49 cents per gallon from $3.29 to $3.78, which was just below the year-to-date high of $3.79 on Feb. 27. Since this recent peak, the national average has dropped for five straight days and declined a total of four cents.

Motorists in every state are paying more at the pump than one month ago, however many drivers are beginning to feel some welcome relief. 27 states have an average price that is cheaper than one year ago and 38 states and Washington D.C. are paying less than one week ago. With “spot” gasoline prices (gasoline sold for immediate payment and delivery) dropping dramatically across the country it is likely that retail prices will continue to fall in the coming days.

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These recent declines and the fact that the national retail average has fallen back below the year-ago price supports AAA’s prediction that gas prices will peak this spring at a lower level than recent years. In 2011 the national average for regular unleaded peaked at $3.98 on May 5. In 2012 the price peaked at $3.94 on April 5 and 6.

Sharply higher pump prices in January and February of this year were driven by refinery maintenance and concerns, rather than more expensive crude oil. These refinery issues pressured wholesale gasoline prices higher, while crude oil prices only rose slightly during the same period. The recent decline in the national average is partially due to cheaper crude oil but is more closely linked to tumbling wholesale gasoline prices.

Crude oil prices began 2013 at $93.12 per barrel and increased as high as $97.94 on Jan. 30. At the close of formal trading on the NYMEX, WTI prices settled 56 cents lower at $90.12 per barrel. For comparison, on March 4 (or the nearest trading day) in 2011 and 2012 WTI settled at $104.42 and $106.72 respectively. Each of these significatly more expensive prices was driven by violence and geopolitical tensions overseas (Libya in 2011 and Iran in 2012). Without similar concerns to begin 2013, crude oil prices have been substantially less expensive and less volatile.

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