WASHINGTON — With winter recently departing and natural-gas prices holding steady, operators are focusing on the skyrocketing cost required to drive to their store(s).
Motorists currently experiencing a jump in pump prices will likely see further increases from now through spring since the recent increase in crude oil has not yet been fully passed through to gasoline prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest short-term energy outlook.
EIA expects the retail price of regular-grade motor gasoline to average $3.56 per gallon in 2011, 77 cents per gallon higher than the 2010 average and about 40 cents above the projected price in the previous short-term energy outlook.
EIA also expects gasoline prices to average about $3.70 per gallon during the peak-driving season (April through September).
There is significant uncertainty surrounding the forecast, with the current market prices of futures and options contracts for gasoline suggesting a 25% probability that the national monthly average retail price could exceed $4 per gallon during summer. Rising crude-oil prices are the primary reason for higher retail prices; the higher refining margins are also expected to be a contributing factor.
Natural-gas working inventories are expected to remain relatively high through 2011. The projected Henry Hub natural-gas spot price averages $4.10 per million Btu (MMBtu) in 2011, $0.29 per MMBtu lower than the 2010 average.
Residential propane prices are $2.880 per gallon (as of March 7), up $0.053 from last month. Wholesale propane prices are $1.456, up $0.045 from last month.