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Today in Energy

May 23, 2014

Average retail gasoline price is $3.67 per gallon heading into Memorial Day weekend

map of U.S. retail price for regular gasoline, as explained in the article text
Source: Provided by GasBuddy.com

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer driving season. Leading up to this year's holiday, the national average retail price for regular gasoline is $3.67 per gallon (gal), as it was this time last year. After increasing 42 cents/gal from early February to $3.71/gal in late April, gasoline prices have fallen modestly in recent weeks as increasing refinery crude oil throughput and higher imports have added supplies to the market.

graph of U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update

The price of retail gasoline reflects both the price of crude oil and the wholesale gasoline crack spread (the difference between the price of wholesale gasoline and the price of crude oil). The price of North Sea Brent crude has averaged $109 per barrel (bbl) thus far in May, $6/bbl (14 cents/gal) more than the May 2013 average. However, lower wholesale gasoline crack spreads compared with last year have offset higher crude prices. Lower wholesale gasoline crack spreads are largely the result of higher crude oil throughputs at refineries, which have added supply to the market. For the four weeks ending May 16, crude oil inputs into U.S. refineries totaled 15.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d), 0.8 million bbl/d higher than a year earlier.

Retail gasoline prices vary regionally based on differences in regional supply and demand dynamics, fuel specifications, and state and local tax levels. Currently, retail prices are the highest in California, where they averaged $4.16/gal on May 19. Prices in California are often high compared to the national average, reflecting stringent gasoline specifications. Average prices are lowest on the Gulf Coast (PADD 3), where on May 19 they stood at $3.44/gal. Prices on the Gulf Coast are often relatively low compared to other locations because it is home to half of U.S. refining capacity, but a much smaller share of demand.

Because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, May 26, EIA's next weekly survey of retail gasoline and diesel fuel prices will be published on Tuesday, May 27, one day later than normal, although it will still reflect Monday morning prices.

Principal contributor: Tim Hess