Amer­i­cans paid cheap­est quar­terly gas prices in 12 years, AAA re­ports

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

Amer­i­cans paid the cheap­est quar­terly gas prices in 12 years dur­ing the first three months of 2016, ac­cord­ing to AAA.

Amer­i­cans have saved nearly $10 bil­lion on gas so far this year com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2015. The na­tional av­er­age price of gas dur­ing the first quar­ter was $1.86 per gal­lon, mak­ing it the cheap­est quar­ter for gaso­line since Jan­uary-March 2004. Gas prices are ex­pected to re­main rel­a­tively low com­pared to re­cent years, though av­er­age prices could rise another 25 cents per gal­lon by Me­mo­rial Day.

The na­tional av­er­age price of gas on March 31 was $2.06 per gal­lon, which is the low­est av­er­age head­ing into April since 2009.

• About 59 per­cent of U.S. sta­tions are sell­ing gas for less than $2 per gal­lon to­day, while the most com­mon price across the coun­try is $1.999 per gal­lon.

• Av­er­age U.S. gas prices are about 36 cents per gal­lon cheaper than a year ago.

Amer­i­cans have saved nearly $10 bil­lion (13 per­cent) on gaso­line so far this year com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2015, which is about $45 per li­censed driver.

• This year’s sav­ings are in ad­di­tion to the $120 bil­lion Amer­i­cans saved over the course of 2015 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, which was about $565 per li­censed driver.

• Cur­rent gas price sav­ings are even more sig­nif­i­cant when com­pared to a few years ago. For ex­am­ple, the most ex­pen­sive first quar­ter ever was in 2012, when prices av­er­aged $3.58 per gal­lon. In com­par­i­son to that quar­ter, Amer­i­cans have saved about $50 bil­lion — or $240 per li­censed driver — dur­ing the first three months this year.

Gas prices are sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than in re­cent years due to rel­a­tively low oil costs and abun­dant petroleum sup­plies. WTI oil prices set­tled above $38 per bar­rel on March 30, which is about $70 per bar­rel lower than the sum­mer­time highs in 2014. Ev­ery $10 change in the price of crude oil can move gas prices by nearly 25 cents per gal­lon.

Abun­dant sup­plies have helped keep prices rel­a­tively low this year. For ex­am­ple, com­mer­cial crude oil sup­plies in the United States are about 13 per­cent higher than a year ago and gaso­line sup­plies are six per­cent higher, ac­cord­ing to EIA es­ti­mates.

Lower gas prices have helped mo­ti­vate Amer­i­cans to drive at record lev­els. Amer­i­cans drove 3.1 tril­lion miles in 2015, which was an all-time record and 3.5 per­cent higher than in 2014, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by the U.S. DOT. The lat­est es­ti­mates in­di­cate Amer­i­cans drove 240.7 bil­lion miles in Jan­uary 2016, which was the most ever for the month.

The EIA es­ti­mated gaso­line con­sump­tion at 395 mil­lion gal­lons per day in its lat­est four-week av­er­age, which is about five per­cent higher than the same pe­riod a year ago and the high­est for this time of year on record. There is a strong like­li­hood that road travel will con­tinue to in­crease this year as long as gas prices re­main low and there are no ma­jor eco­nomic prob­lems.

Gas prices are on the rise na­tion­wide, which is a trend driv­ers see nearly ev­ery spring.

The na­tional av­er­age price of gas has in­creased 35 out of the past 37 days for a to­tal of 35 cents per gal­lon. Gas prices of­ten in­crease 50 cents per gal­lon or more in the spring.

Most driv­ers are pay­ing $4-$9 more per gal­lon to fill up their ve­hi­cles on ev­ery trip to the gas sta­tion to­day com­pared to mid-Fe­bru­ary.

Gas prices could rise by another 15-25 cents per gal­lon in many parts of the coun­try by Me­mo­rial Day. At those lev­els, sea­sonal prices would still be less ex­pen­sive than in re­cent years.

Gas prices are ris­ing due to higher oil costs, in­creased de­mand, re­fin­ery main­te­nance and the switchover to sum­mer-blend gaso­line. Oil prices have in­creased by more than $10 per bar­rel since early Fe­bru­ary, which has made it more ex­pen­sive to pro­duce gaso­line.

De­mand has in­creased this spring as the weather has turned warmer, and this in­crease comes at the same time that many re­finer­ies con­duct main­te­nance to pre­pare for the sum­mer driv­ing sea­son. Re­finer­ies con­duct­ing main­te­nance pro­duce less fuel, which can lead to higher prices.

The EPA man­dates gas sta­tions in some parts of the coun­try sell sum­mer-blend gaso­line from June 1 to Sept. 15 for air-qual­ity rea­sons. Re­finer­ies be­gin pro­duc­ing sum­mer-blend gaso­line by April 1, and this fuel costs more to pro­duce.

Av­er­age state gas prices vary by 95 cents per gal­lon across the coun­try. The five states with the cheap­est av­er­age gas prices on March 31 in­cluded Mis­souri ($1.83), New Jersey ($1.84), Ok­la­homa ($1.85), South Carolina ($1.87) and Alabama ($1.87). States with cheaper prices have rel­a­tively low gas taxes and abun­dant fuel sup­plies.

The five states with the most ex­pen­sive prices on March 31 in­cluded Cal­i­for­nia ($2.79), Hawaii ($2.59), Ne­vada ($2.44), Wash­ing­ton ($2.29) and Alaska ($2.29). Gas prices in Cal­i­for­nia and in neigh­bor­ing states are among the high­est in the coun­try due to con­tin­ued re­fin­ery prob­lems that have lim­ited re­gional fuel pro­duc­tion and sup­plies.

As North Amer­ica’s largest motoring and leisure travel or­ga­ni­za­tion, AAA pro­vides more than 55 mil­lion mem­bers with travel, in­sur­ance, fi­nan­cial and au­to­mo­tive- re­lated ser­vices. Since its found­ing in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-pay­ing AAA has been a leader and ad­vo­cate for the safety and se­cu­rity of all trav­el­ers. AAA clubs can be vis­ited on the In­ter­net at AAA.com. Mo­torists can map a route, iden­tify gas prices, find dis­counts, book a ho­tel and ac­cess AAA road­side as­sis­tance with the AAA Mo­bile app for iPhone, iPad and An­droid. Learn more at AAA.com/mo­bile.

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