Frequently Asked Questions

What's up (and down) with gasoline prices?

EIA analysis of the petroleum market points to fluctuations in the price of crude oil as the main contributor to the large changes in gasoline prices the United States 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.

Crude oil is a global commodity where oil prices are determined on the world market. Strong global demand growth for petroleum in the mid-2000s was a major factor in record high prices for crude oil and gasoline in mid-2008. Supply disruptions led to spikes in crude oil and gasoline prices. Major disruptions were caused by hurricanes and storms in supply regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico, political events in major oil producing countries, especially in the Middle East, and unplanned outages in U.S. refineries and pipelines.

Gasoline is often more expensive in the summer because more costly summer blends are supplied and demand is generally higher. U.S. refineries often conduct planned maintenance in the spring, which can lead to a drop in gasoline production and thereby make supplies more vulnerable if unplanned refinery outages occur. Supply disruptions as a result of unplanned refinery outages often result in increasing prices.

The U.S. economic recession and a rise in the use of more fuel efficient vehicles, which contributed to lower demand for gasoline, and increases in U.S. oil production helped to reduce upward pressure on oil and gasoline prices in the past several years.

Gasoline and oil prices are often topics in EIA's This Week In Petroleum and in Today in Energy.  For EIA's latest gasoline price projections, see EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook and the Market Prices and Uncertainty Report.

Learn more: 

What drives crude oil prices?
Factors Affecting Gasoline Prices 
Weekly Weekly Retail Gasoline Prices
The Availability and Price of Petroleum and Petroleum Products Produced in Countries Other Than Iran

November 14, 2013


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