Per-gallon prices for both diesel and gasoline remained relatively stable this week heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, according to data tracked by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), with prices moving around a penny or less for both fuels across much of the country.
The exception is the Central Atlantic region, where diesel jumped up 3.7 cents to $3.055 per gallon this week, according to the agency, which is 50.6 cents per gallon higher compared to the same time period last year.
On a week-to-week basis, however, average national retail prices at the pump for both diesel and gasoline declined slightly, EIA said.
Diesel dropped 3/10ths of a penny on a national basis to $2.912 per gallon, though that price is 49.1 cents higher per gallon compared to the same week in 2016. California is home to the highest price for diesel at $3.599 per gallon (down 1.1 cents from last week) which is 79.5 cents per gallon higher compared to last year. The Gulf Coast is home to the lowest price for diesel this week at $2.689 per gallon (down 8/10ths of s penny from last week) though that is 39.3 cents per gallon higher versus the same week in 2016.
The national average retail pump price for gasoline dipped 2.4 cents this week to $2.568 per gallon, though that is 41.3 cents per gallon higher compared to the same week last year, EIA noted. Gasoline prices declined in all regions of the country except for California, where prices inched up 2/10ths of a penny to $2.758 per gallon.
The agency added that average U.S. household expenditures on gasoline in 2017 is expected to total $1,977, or approximately 2.4% of mean incomes of households, according to projections made in its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO). The most recent peak for household gasoline expenditures – $2,715, or 4% of household income – occurred back in 2008. More recently, average household gasoline expenditures in 2015 and 2016 were near or below $2,000, or 2.5% of total household income.
Household gasoline expenditures have fluctuated over the past 10 years as a result of changes in gasoline prices and consumption, EIA said, meaning that when gasoline prices are relatively high, more of a household’s income is devoted to gasoline expenditures, leading to lower gasoline consumption and efforts to improve vehicle fuel economy.
Declines in gasoline prices since 2012, however, have led to increases in vehicle travel and increases in gasoline consumption. Based on EIA’s latest STEO projections, continued low gasoline prices are expected to lead to record-high gasoline consumption of 9.3 million barrels per day for 2017.
Diesel prices, however, may trend upwards this winter as demand for heating oil – made from the same petroleum distillate used to make diesel – is expected to climb.
EIA’s STEO forecasts average U.S. household heating oil consumption to be 6% higher than last winter. The higher consumption reflects temperatures that are forecast to be close to normal, based on a 10-year rolling average. However, a return to normal temperatures this winter would be a colder winter than last year, the agency said, as much warmer-than-normal temperatures occurred last year, which contributed to lower heating-related expenditures.
For winter the winter of 2017–2018, EIA expects that heating oil wholesale margins will average 41 cents per gallon, which would be 14 cents higher per gallon compared to last winter. Lower distillate fuel inventory levels, growing domestic consumption of distillate fuel, strong demand for U.S. distillate exports, and the expectation of close-to-normal temperatures this winter are expected to contribute to the higher heating oil wholesale margins.
Distillate fuel inventories, which include heating oil and diesel, totaled 35.3 million barrels back on October 6 in the Northeast, which is 17.9 million barrels lower than at the same time last year and 1.8 million barrels lower than the previous five-year average for this time of year. Distillate inventories declined heading into this winter because of recent refinery outages along the U.S. Gulf Coast after Hurricane Harvey, coupled with strong demand as global industrial and economic activity expands.