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Diesel prices fall 5.3 cents to $4.004 per gallon

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 15, 2012

The price per gallon of diesel fuel dropped at its steepest level in nearly five months, according to data from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Declining 5.3 cents to $4.004 per gallon, this falls short of a 6.6 cent decrease to $3.828 per gallon during the week of December 19.

Diesel prices have been falling for five consecutive weeks, during which time prices have dropped a cumulative 14.4 cents. But even with these declines, prices have been above the $4 per gallon mark for 12 straight weeks, since hitting $4.051 per gallon the week of February 27.

On an annual basis, diesel is 5.7 cents less than it was a year ago.

Even with recent declines, shippers continue to keep a watchful eye on fuel prices and are taking steps to reduce mileage and cut down on empty miles. Steps like this were cited by many shippers at the NASSTRAC Logistics Conference & Expo earlier this month.

And as previously reported by LM, shippers continue to take steps to minimize the impact of fluctuating fuel costs. Over the years, they have maintained that this is imperative as higher diesel prices have the potential to hinder growth and increase operating costs, which will, in turn, force them to raise rates and offset the increased prices to consumers.

A conference call hosted by Stifel Nicolaus last month, which featured Tom O’Brien CEO, TravelCenters of America and Petro Stopping Centers and Mark Hazelwood Executive Vice President, Pilot Flying J Travel, noted that “diesel fuel price will trend higher, perhaps more quickly and with more volatility than oil prices, as diesel is in great demand around the world,” adding that [t]he demand for highway diesel fuel in the U.S. has dropped by 25%+ since 2007 due to a variety of factors.”

With the decline in diesel prices comes a decline in the price per barrel of oil, which was at $94.75 per barrel at press time. This marks the lowest level since dropping to $93.65 on December 19, 2011, according to an Associated Press report. The report added that the low price was due in large part to Eurozone fears arising from the political stalemate in Greece and banking woes in Italy and Spain.

Despite the fluctuation of oil prices, which only weeks ago were north of $107 per barrel, LM Oil and Fuel Columnist and Senior Analyst at Mercator International, LLC Derik Andreoli recently wrote that gasoline prices remained insulated from the rising cost of crude for a couple reasons.

“On the supply side, ethanol production increased rapidly over this period of time. Today, roughly one in ten gallons of gasoline consumed in the U.S. is derived from corn-based ethanol, which is a substitute for gasoline but not diesel,” wrote Andreoli. “Moreover, European gasoline demand has been supplanted by diesel, and old, inflexible European refineries were set up to maximize gasoline output. As a consequence, Europe’s surplus gasoline was, and is, exported to the U.S. East Coast. As gasoline supply climbed relative to diesel, U.S. gasoline consumption fell as a consequence of the recession. Only now is it rebounding as the economy limps along the path of recovery. With fuel economy increasing, however, demand is not likely to recover to pre-recession levels.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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