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AASHTO Journal

Fuel Prices Could Reach Four-Year Highs This Summer

Data tracked by the Energy Information Administration and AAA indicate U.S. fuel prices could reach levels not seen since 2014; a price spike that is largely a reflection of higher oil prices.

EIA forecasts that regular gasoline will reach an average of $2.74 per gallon during what it calls the "summer season" – April through September – which would be the highest average "summer price" for gasoline in four years. That's also 26 cents per gallon higher compared to the average price for gasoline during the summer of 2017, according to EIA's data.

On top of that, the agency said overall gasoline expenditures in 2018 are expected to be about $2,300 per household or nearly $200 more compared to 2017, as it predicts U.S. regular gasoline prices will average out to $2.64 per gallon for the year.

traffic.pngEIA also projects that monthly average gasoline prices will reach a peak of $2.79 per gallon in May before falling to $2.65 per gallon in September; a fluctuation driven in part by federal and state environmental regulations that mandate the use of summer-grade gasoline, which is more expensive to manufacture.

The agency noted that U.S. gasoline prices tend to reflect changes in the Brent global crude oil benchmark, and since EIA forecasts Brent crude oil will average $63 per barrel this summer, up $12 per barrel compared to the summer of 2017, fuel prices will thus be higher. Crude oil prices are up this year, in part, because of extensions to the coordinated crude oil production reductions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the agency added.

Those predictions fall in line with AAA's outlook, as the group noted U.S. gasoline prices ended April at an average of $2.81 per gallon; the highest price per gallon since November of 2014. That year, pump prices averaged $3.34 per gallon, peaking at $3.70 per gallon in April and bottoming out at $2.25 per gallon in December.

While this year's pump prices will not be reminiscent of 2014, filling-up will still pack an "unwanted punch" to the wallets of motorists, noted Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson, in a statement.

"Motorists have been spoiled the past few years with inexpensive gas prices," she explained. "We expect prices to continue increasing, potentially another 10 cents, through Memorial Day and then will likely stabilize during the summer, with the understanding that if demand spikes, prices are likely to follow."

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