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EIA: Summer Gas Prices Will be Similar to Last Year

WASHINGTON D.C. -- When it comes to gas prices, consumers can expect the status quo this summer.

Drivers are expected to pay a nationwide average of $3.57 per gallon of regular gasoline, 1 cent per gallon less than the average cost last summer, reported the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its April Short-Term Energy and Summer Fuels Outlook.

Average gas prices are expected to peak at $3.66 per gallon in May and then steadily decline to $3.46 in September, the EIA added. As always, fuel prices will vary significantly by region, with the West Coast expected to be as much as 48 cents per gallon higher than Gulf Coast prices.

Despite this variation in the West Coast, the year-over-year differences in average gasoline prices for the East Coast, Midwest, Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain regions are forecasted to be minimal, according to EIA.

Nearly two-thirds of the retail price of gasoline is determined by the cost of Brent Crude Oil. EIA predicts Brent Crude to average $105 per barrel this summer driving season (defined as April through September). If realized, this price would be $2 per barrel cheaper than last year. However, the benefit will be fully offset by higher wholesale margins compared to last summer, EIA stated.

Additional data released in the report points to other near-status quo levels this summer. Gasoline consumption is expected to average almost 9 million barrels per day, nearly the same as last year. Also, although highway travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, this is expected to be offset by improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency.

The EIA also reported that fuel ethanol blending into gasoline is expected to decrease by 3,000 barrels per day to 870,000. Ethanol still accounts for 9.7 percent of total gasoline consumption, however.

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