Why Gasoline Isn’t $4 Per Gallon Nationally

The recent surge in U.S. gasoline prices may be stalling thanks to a growing supply of crude oil and a retreat by speculators in the futures market. After weeks of consecutive increases, the average price of a gallon of gasin the U.S. fell more than a penny this week, from $3.94 on April 2, to $3.93 on April 9. In California, the state with the highest gas prices in the lower 48, prices fell to an average of $4.28 a gallon on April 9, down from $4.35 three weeks ago.

“I think we’re seeing the gas and diesel markets start to run out of steam,” says Ben Brockwell, director of data and pricing at Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), a New Jersey-based energy research firm. Two weeks ago, Brockwell was all but certain the price of gas would hit a national average of $4 a gallon by the end of April. Now he’s not so sure: “There’s a chance this market has peaked and that we won’t see $4 average prices at the pump.”

Gas prices haven’t fallen everywhere, though. They continue to rise along much of the East Coast, particularly in New England, where the average price rose 7¢ last week, from $3.89 to $3.96. A flurry of East Coast refinery shutdowns of late has squeezed supply chains and could continue to add to the price of gasoline this summer, particularly in the Northeast

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The price of gas is determined primarily by the price of oil, which has fallen recently due to questions surrounding the strength of the U.S. recovery, as well as news that Iran will resume talks on its nuclear program. Rising OPEC production and a growing supply of crude in the U.S. have also helped dampen oil prices recently. The U.S. is now producing more than 6 million barrels a day, the most in 12 years. But with demand at its lowest level since the mid-1990s—and overloaded pipeline infrastructure unable to move it to refineries quickly—supplies are building faster than they have in decades.

A Bloomberg survey of energy analysts indicates that U.S. crude supplies climbed to 364.4 million barrels last week, their highest level for early April since 1990.Supplies in Cushing, Okla., where the price of West Texas Intermediate is set, have risen particularly fast—nearly 40 percent this year. The amount of crude stored in Cushing rose to more than 40 million barrels at the end of March, nearing the April 2011 record of 41.8 million barrels, and nearly double the amount stored there just three years ago.

 

Bloomberg businessweek has the full article

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