U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Frequently Asked Questions
What's up (and down) with gasoline prices?
EIA analysis of the petroleum market points to the price of crude oil as the main contributor to the large changes in gasoline prices the U.S. has experienced in recent years. Crude oil prices are greatly affected by levels of supply relative to actual and expected demand for the petroleum products made from crude oil.
Strong world-wide demand growth for petroleum in the mid-2000s was a major reason for the record high prices for crude oil and gasoline in mid-2008. Then the on-set of the economic recession in the United States and the rest of the world in 2008 led to a sharp drop in demand and prices. The gradual improvement in the economy of the United States and other countries starting in 2010 and the political events in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 contributed to the gradual increase and spikes in crude oil and gasoline prices in 2011. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and floods in the Midwest that shut down U.S. crude oil production and negatively affected refinery and pipeline operations have also caused price spikes several times in the past decade.
Crude oil and gasoline prices fluctuated but declined overall from May to December 2011 as supply issues eased and petroleum demand followed fluctuations in the pace of recovery from the world and U.S. economic recession. The seasonal switch from summer gasoline blends to lower cost winter blends along with reduced gasoline demand also contributed to the general decline in prices in October to December 2011.
Oil prices fluctuated widely during 2012, reflecting concerns and expectations for world oil supply, economic conditions, and petroleum demand. Prices climbed from January to March, as turmoil in South Sudan, Yemen, and Syria caused a tightening of world oil supply. Prices then declined through June, as supply conditions eased on increases in oil production in Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the United States, and from lower expectations for petroleum demand in the United States and Europe. Prices rose again in the summer due to seasonal increases in petroleum demand, expectations of economic stimulus measures in China, Europe, and the United States, and concerns about oil supply disruptions in the Persian Gulf. Prices then leveled off and declined slightly in October through December, reflecting the trend in oil demand in the United States and the rest of the world.
Gasoline prices rose in January and February 2013, due to a variety of factors, including increases in crude prices, and planned and unplanned refinery outages. A detailed explanation of the price increases during this period is in This Week In Petroleum, February 21, 2013 edition.
Gasoline and oil prices are often topics in EIA's This Week In Petroleum. Recent past editions that discuss oil and gasoline prices include the, February 6, 2013 and January 24, 2013 editions, and the October 17, August 29, 22, and 15, May 9, and March 7 editions in 2012. The January 5, 2012 edition provides an overview of major events that affected petroleum markets in 2011.
Additional analysis of gasoline prices include the following Today in Energy articles:
- Why have gasoline prices risen since the start of the year?
- Weather and other events can cause disruptions to gasoline infrastructure and supply
- 2012 Brief: Retail gasoline prices vary significantly across the country
- 2012 Brief: Average 2012 crude oil prices remain near 2011 levels
- Crude oil prices peaked early in 2012
- Drop in U.S. retail gasoline prices reflects decline in crude oil costs
- Regional differences for cost of crude oil to refiners widened in 2011
- Retail gasoline prices in the Rocky Mountains fall as U.S. average prices rise
- U.S. average gasoline and diesel prices over $3 per gallon throughout 2011
- Recent gasoline and diesel prices track Brent and LLS, not WTI
Last updated: March 5, 2013
Other FAQs about Gasoline
- Can I tell where the gasoline at my local station comes from?
- Does EIA have city or county-level energy consumption and price data?
- Does EIA have gasoline prices by city, county, or zip code?
- How can I find historical gasoline prices for each state?
- How many gallons of gasoline does one barrel of oil make?
- How much carbon dioxide is produced by burning gasoline and diesel fuel?
- What was the highest U.S. average retail price of regular gasoline?
- What's up (and down) with gasoline prices?
- Where can I find inflation-adjusted gasoline prices?
- Why are the retail pump prices for gasoline and diesel fuel in increments of 0.9 cents?
- Why don't fuel prices change as quickly as crude oil prices?
- Why is the United States exporting gasoline when prices are so high?
- How much ethanol is in gasoline and how does it affect fuel economy?
- How much gasoline does the United States consume?
- How much tax do we pay on a gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel?
- What do I pay for in a gallon of regular gasoline?
- What is the outlook for gasoline prices for 2013 and for 2014?