US regular-grade gasoline prices average $2.16/gal, just 6¢ higher than a year ago, and the second-lowest heading into a Thanksgiving holiday since 2008, when the national regular gasoline price averaged $1.89/gal on the Monday ahead of the holiday.
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the heaviest travel times of the year in the US. The American Automobile Association forecasts 48.7 million people will be traveling 50 miles or more for the holiday this year, about 1 million more travelers than last year and the most since 2007. Of the 48.7 million total travelers, AAA expects that 43.5 million of them will drive, an increase of 1.5 million over last year.
Based on data for the selected major metropolitan areas surveyed in the US Energy Information Administration’s Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update, retail gasoline prices as of Nov. 21 range from a low of $1.88/gal in Houston to $2.76/gal in Los Angeles. This wide range in prices reflects differences in taxes, fuel specifications, and regional market supply and demand balances.
“In 2016, gasoline prices in the East Coast region as a whole remained relatively stable, despite several disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew and two separate incidents on the Colonial Pipeline, a major supply source for the East Coast. The Torrance refinery in California returned to operation in May and contributed to the West Coast average gasoline price declining from 50¢/gal above the national average (January–May) to 41¢ above the national average (May–November). The average West Coast gasoline price is almost always higher than the national average, and as of Nov. 21, the West Coast gasoline price was 44¢ above the national average,” EIA said.
Gasoline prices continue to be closely linked to crude oil prices. Total petroleum and other liquids production continues to outpace consumption globally, resulting in growing inventories and downward pressure on prices. The spot price for Brent was $45.96/bbl as of Nov. 21, $3.47/bbl below the price from the same time in 2015.
EIA’s November Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasts that both crude oil and gasoline prices will continue to decrease in the coming months, with US average gasoline prices reaching a low of $1.97/gal in January 2017. Retail gasoline prices are forecast to average $2.27/gal in 2017, compared with $2.13/gal in 2016.