The price for a gallon of gasoline reached its highest level in six years during the July 4th weekend. According to several sources, drivers paid an average $3.66 a gallon at the pump, about 19¢ a gallon more than a year ago. In a typical summer season, prices tend to decline following Memorial Day weekend as refiners finish their yearly maintenance and gear up for full production of summer grades. That did not happen this year, as the global commodities markets remains wary of unrest in the Middle East, keeping prices stubbornly stuck at elevated levels.
Last year the national average for a gallon of gas during the July 4th holiday was $3.48. In 2012, it was around $3.34 a gallon during the same time period, and in 2011 it clocked in at $3.57. That's a long way from the $2.74 a gallon in 2010, or the $2.62 it set drivers back in 2009, but still a bargain compared with July 4, 2008, when drivers were handing over an average $4.10 a gallon in the wake of the financial crisis.
So, things could be worse ... a lot worse. Given the current unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, energy experts are breathing a sigh of relief that American motorists didn't see prices top $4 a gallon. What has changed is that America's oil production is now at its highest level in more than 30 years. U.S. production, largely due to the shale oil boom, has soared to around 8.6 million barrels a day, more than a million barrels a day over last year. And refinery production is efficiently humming along at an estimated 90% capacity. Interestingly, the number of refineries has not increased, though capacity through recent expansion has expanded dramatically.
Price declines, say the experts, could occur in the coming weeks. However, they are adding significant caveats that this will only happen if the crisis in Iraq does not deteriorate and if the weather cooperates by way of a mild hurricane season.
As most vending and coin-op route managers have learned by now, fuel costs have to be tracked as carefully as inventory. Seeking out the lowest prices and monitoring miles is now just another management function. There are apps for that. Gasbuddy remains the gold standard when it comes to seeking out bargains at the pump. But other smartphone apps are now available that help with increasingly sophisticated functions in addition to hunting cheap prices, such as tracking mileage.
Cheap Gas: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cheap-gas/id290765007?mt=8