Rethink those summer driving plans

Gas prices at $4 per gallon are displayed at a Shell station in San Francisco on March 30, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: It might be time to pull out the calculator and re-work the budget for that summer vacation you're planning. The government reported a sharp drop in the nation's gasoline inventories today. Down five and a half million barrels from a week earlier. Gas futures jumped three cents a gallon on the news. Hit the highest price since last August at one point. And here it is, only the second week of April. Miles from the summer driving season. Still, our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale did find some good news in those falling inventories.


JOHN DIMSDALE: Gasoline stockpiles have been dropping for more than two months, caused by strong demand and weak supply. There have been some unexpected refinery outages, including one caused by a possum and another by a raccoon.

Plus, the chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, John Felmy, says it's been cold.

JOHN FELMY: We have seen a little bit of a delay in switching from winter fuels to summer because of the lengthened cold conditions. But it appears as though they're starting to make the transition, because the refiners have to have summer fuel at terminals by May 1 for most of the country.

We're paying about 11 cents more per gallon than last April for gasoline. That's due in part to the jump in crude oil prices after Iran took those British sailors prisoner.

The peaceful resolution of that crisis, combined with an increase in oil inventories, means there should be some price relief in the next few weeks.

Tom Wallin at Energy Intelligence says the gasoline bill might not be so bad this summer, thanks in part to fewer regulatory requirements.

TOM WALLIN: We don't have so many major changes in specifications that are coming through the system that require refiners to modify what they're doing. We also have a big increase in ethanol production. And that's going to add to the gasoline supply pool.

Due to the current healthy supply of crude, the government's Energy Information Agency is forecasting only a modest increase in gas prices for the summer. Less than $3 a gallon on average — a few cents a gallon cheaper than last summer.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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