Gas prices reached record-high average in 2012
Drivers may find relief in 2013 as demand settles, but crude-oil prices remain high and unpredictable.
Last year, gasoline prices were nine cents higher than in 2011 and 35 cents higher than in 2008, the first year prices averaged more than $3, according to the Energy Information Administration.
It was the second year in a row that average gas prices stayed above $3 during every week. As of Sunday, only eight states posted average prices below $3 per gallon, according to AAA. Diesel reached a record average of $3.97 per gallon.
As usual, drivers in the Rockies and Gulf regions paid the least, at $3.61 and $3.48 per gallon, respectively. Drivers along the West and East Coasts saw an average of $3.98 and $3.70. Of 10 major cities ranked by the EIA, prices in San Francisco and Los Angeles fluctuated by at least $1.15 throughout the year, compared with 62 cents in Boston and New York.
The EIA blamed unexpected refinery outages -- on the West Coast during the winter and on the East Coast during fall -- along with routine shutdowns as refineries in the Midwest switched from winter- to summer-grade gasoline. Of course, superstorm Sandy wasn't any help, nor were new oil sanctions on Iran. Crude oil made up two-thirds of the price of gasoline, according to the EIA.
Several factors were promising, but did little to quell an overall volatile oil market. Crude-oil prices finished the year at less than $92 per barrel and reached more than $108 over the winter, but never came near July 2008 when prices surged to more than $145. Drivers also continued to cut their gasoline purchases. As of October, the latest data available, retail sales were down 44 percent since the same month in 1983.
According to AAA, gas prices should peak at lower levels this year -- up to $3.80 versus $3.94 in 2012, the association said -- if production continues and major storms pass over without serious damage.
Despite the positive implications, lower gasoline demand and fewer vehicle miles traveled have the federal government hot and bothered. Last week, the Government Accountability Office suggested implementing a mileage tax to cover a shortfall in highway funds and gas-tax revenues. For the time being, it's just talk.
[Source: EIA, AAA; Photo: AP/NBCNEews.com]
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