Gasoline prices are almost guaranteed to raise your blood pressure while emptying your wallet.
Prices took their welcome annual dip in the fall, although now they’re heading for their annual peak in late April or early May.
Projections on what gas prices will average for the year actually look a little better than in 2011. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), gasoline prices nationally averaged $2.78 per gallon in 2010 and $3.53 in 2011. They are projecting a dip to an average of $3.48 in 2012 but up to $3.55 in 2013.
The current national retail average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline is $3.38. Today’s price is a penny more expensive than one week ago, 15 cents more expensive than one month ago, and 28 cents more expensive than one year ago, AAA reported.
During the peak driving season, April to September, EIA predicts prices will average about 5 cents higher than the average for the year. That also varies from region to region, with the West Coast expected to average 25 cent per gallon higher than the annual average.
Diesel prices averaged $2.99 in 2010, jumped to $3.84 in 2011 and are projected at $3.85 for 2012 and $3.93 for 2013.
But that’s an average. Prices usually peak in late April or early May (the low point usually comes in November), and according to Fred Rozell with the Oil Price Information Service, the peak should not be as high above the low point as in past years because the economy is still flat. If prices peak at 40 or 45 percent above the low point, that would put prices at between $4 and $4.20 per gallon.
Historically, the peak is about 78 percent above the low point, which would put the prices at $4.50 per gallon or better.
Diesel prices continue to run higher than gasoline prices. The reason for that, Rozell said, is continuing high demand for diesel fuel overseas, especially South America.
But what accounts for variations in prices between different areas, such as between Mount Vernon and Newark or Mount Vernon and Columbus?
Kimberly Schwind, with Central Ohio AAA, said part of that could be due to prices charged by distributors. Rozell said another factor can be how aggressive retailers are willing to be to attract more customers into their stores, not so much to buy gas, but to buy food and drinks, on which they make more money than the gasoline.
It also seems that, when prices go up, everyone increases at the same time. That, Rozell said, may be due to Ohio having many company-owned stations — one person may put the word out to dozens of stations to raise prices — whereas his home state of New Jersey has more independently-owned stations, who react to what his nearest competitors are doing.