Average U.S. retail prices for gasoline have consistently drifted downward in recent days, after surging when Hurricane Harvey closed Gulf Coast refineries, fuel pipelines and tanker shipping lanes and then Irma followed up with its impact on Florida.
The Energy Information Administration reported Sept. 18 that average pump prices for regular gasoline nationwide had fallen 5 cents a gallon from a week earlier, to $2.63. A month earlier, average prices were under $2.40.
The EIA said average diesel prices also edged lower, but by a much smaller 1.6-cent decline, to nearly $2.79 a gallon.
The gasoline price spike that at its peak averaged nearly 30 cents a gallon also hit around the big Labor Day weekend that is one of the nation's heaviest roadway travel periods, as vacationers hit the road one last time before the end of summer.
Large price increases can dampen motor travel, as least temporarily while consumers adjust to the sticker shock, while lower prices often spur more travel as motorists fill up more cheaply.
And since the largest source of revenue for transportation projects – for state budgets and for the federal Highway Trust Fund – is from excise taxes on gasoline, trends in fuel sales can determine how well those dedicated taxes keep up with infrastructure investment needs.
Already, the HTF's annual receipts fall well short of what it spends on highway and transit programs, and Congress has repeatedly bridged the gap by adding funds from other sources.
At the AAA motor club, which surveys filling stations around the country to track pump prices on a daily basis, spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano said that "gas prices are dropping as the situation with refineries, pipelines and gasoline deliveries is positively progressing. It looks like pump prices will continue on this declining trend into the coming weeks as the regions affected by Irma and Harvey resume normal operations."
An AAA Sept. 18 story on fuel prices noted that Midwest motorists benefited the most from the price drop "with a few states – Indiana, Michigan and Ohio – seeing gas prices plummet by the double-digits inside of seven days." However, it also said some states in the West Coast and Rocky Mountains were still seeing prices increase.
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