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Business, Energy, STEM

U.S. Gas Prices Shift From Summer to Fall

pumping-gas-2-200Here we are at the end of summer 2015. Fall officially begins in the U.S. on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. It is also two weeks after Labor Day, the unofficial end of the summer driving season. Given the volatility of gas prices in different regions of the U.S. over the past four months, this post provides an update on three key indicators for this energy commodity: average gas pump prices, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices, and U.S. petroleum inventory.

Average price at the pump – GasBuddy.com is reporting the following average regular gas prices for today at 10:55 a.m. EDT:

Today                   $2.286

Yesterday               2.296

One Week Ago      2.333

One Month Ago    2.637

One Year Ago        3.338

As the chart shows, the average price paid at the pump by U.S. motorists is $1.052 less than it was a year ago, and good news for our pocket books. GasBuddy.com is also reporting average gas prices under $2 in five states: South Carolina ($1.89), Mississippi ($1.92), Alabama ($1.95), Louisiana ($1.98) and Tennessee ($1.99).

WTI – Bloomberg Business reports today’s opening price for a barrel of WTI at $44.97 and shows it rising to $45.99 in the first few hours of trading. As a reminder, WTI is the grade or standard used to benchmark crude oil prices here in the U.S. WTI is also known as Texas light sweet – light because of its low density and sweet because of its low sulfur content.

After falling to a low of $38.24 on August 24th, then rising to $49.20 on August 31st, the price of a barrel of WTI has bounced around since then falling to $44.00 on September 14th and then rising to $47.15 on September 16th. It is premature to suggests where these prices may go given it is the end of summer and many refineries have begun transitioning to winter blends and cutting back in production given the expected drop in consumer purchases.

Needless to say, a $3 a barrel increase in WTI last week still has some heads spinning. Let’s see what happens this week.

U.S. Petroleum Inventory Report – The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides a Weekly Petroleum Status Report (WPSR) each Wednesday. WPSR provides timely information on supply and selected prices of crude oil and principal petroleum products that is used by industry, news and media outlets, planners, policymakers, consumers, analysts, and State and local governments, etc.

The folks at GasBuddy.com have provided a great summary of last week’s report on September 16, 2015:

While last week’s US oil imports dropped about 3% for some 270,000 barrels and higher refinery runs were quite robust, increasing gasoline stockpiles by 2.8 million thus placing inventories 7 million barrels ahead of this time last year, the decline in domestic oil output is the headliner.

For months, declining oil production had been forecast, but it was only this week where we learned that after six weeks of consecutive declines, last week’s measurement of 9.117 million barrels daily is lower than where the year started.

While gas prices are expected to continue downward thru the end of next year, OPEC has not reduced its production capacity and the potential of a new crude oil supply from Iran will definitely have an impact on future gas prices.

Happy motoring as we welcome cooler weather and an explosion of fall foliage with earthy colors.

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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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