U.S. fuel prices nearly flat despite brief jump in demand

By Renzo Pipoli
Fuel prices were little changed in early February from a week earlier, despite a brief jump in demand related to drivers stocking up ahead of winter storms. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Fuel prices were little changed in early February from a week earlier, despite a brief jump in demand related to drivers stocking up ahead of winter storms. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Gasoline prices were unchanged to start the week, with the national average at $2.26 per gallon, while the week ended January 25 saw a spike in gasoline as drivers sought to stock up on fuel ahead of winter storms, the AAA said.

Demand for gasoline ahead of the storm -- at 9.6 million barrels per day -- was very high and reminiscent of demand associated with summer driving. The last time the rate was this high was during the 2018 Labor Day weekend, the AAA said.


"One reason for the jump could be the extreme cold weather seen last week. This is similar to what we see prior to hurricanes," Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson, said in a press release. "Now that the storm has passed, demand is likely to fall more in-line with typical February estimates."


Fuel price averages per gallon were only a penny more expensive than a month ago, and 34 cents higher than last year, the driver's organization said.

The areas hit hardest by the Polar vortex, such as those in the Great Lakes and Central region, saw some of the biggest gains in the country with Illinois and Ohio prices rising 6 cents per gallon on the week. Other states in the area saw smaller gains or decreases.

Seven states in the Great Lakes and Central region are seeing fuel prices about 50 cents per gallon lower than last year.

The Energy Information Administration data shows gasoline stocks increased by nearly 300,000 barrels.

In the South and Southeast, prices fell on average about three cents per gallon, though there were exceptions like Florida, where fuel prices rose 6 cents per gallon.

The increase in prices in Florida, and two other states, likely resulted from a four-million-barrel draw in gasoline stocks in the South and Southeast region. States like Arkansas, with $ 1.93 per gallon, and Texas, with $1.96 per gallon, are among those with the least expensive gasoline.

In the Rockies area, prices continued to drop and now range between $2.02 and $2.35 per gallon. With the exception of Montana, all states in the Rockies saw declines. Utah, with a 5 cent per gallon drop, saw the biggest decline.


In the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region average prices fell between one and three cents for every state. Yet prices in areas like Washington D.C., at $2.53 per gallon, are among the highest in the country.

The region's refineries are now in maintenance season that has caused utilization rates to drop to 72 percent, from 89 percent a week earlier.

In the West Coast, which includes states that have the strictest environmental-related requirements, drivers continue to pay the most expensive prices in the country.

California and Hawaii, with gasoline averages at $3.25 per gallon, have the nation's most expensive prices.

West Coast gasoline stocks expanded by approximately 400,000 barrels, to 32.8 million barrels, but are still 1.1 million lower than usual at this time of the year, the AAA said.

Fuel sold in service stations across most of the United States is a combination of either RBOB, Reformulate Gasoline Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending, or CBOB, Conventional Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending. Some states use RBOB and others CBOB. California mandates a special formula named CARBOB.

These blendstock products are all naphtha obtained from crude oil. The naphtha is in most cases later mixed with about 10 percent ethanol, which is an oxygenate added so that the ending emission is cleaner.


RBOB gasoline futures for March delivery were quoted Tuesday morning at $1.42 per gallon. This compares with $1.34 per gallon a week earlier for February delivery, according to CME Group data.

Ethanol, which is alcohol that in the United States is mostly derived from corn, was quoted early Tuesday at $1.33 for March delivery, up from $1.26 per gallon for February delivery a week earlier.

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