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EIA: US gasoline prices this Thanksgiving are the second lowest in eight years

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, US retail regular grade gasoline averaged US$2.16/gal., up just US$0.06/gal. from the same time last year. This is the second lowest gasoline price since 2008, when the national regular gasoline price averaged US$1.89/gal. on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the heaviest travel times of the year. AAA forecasts 48.7 million people will be travelling 50 miles or more for the holiday this year, over one million more travellers than last year and the most since 2007. Of the 48.7 million total travellers, AAA expects that 43.5 million of them will drive, an increase of 1.5 million over last year.

Gasoline prices across the country reflect differences in taxes, fuel specifications, and regional market supply and demand balances. Based on data for the selected major metropolitan areas surveyed in EIA's Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update, retail gasoline prices as of 21 November range from a low of US$1.88/gal. in Houston, Texas, to US$2.76/gal. in Los Angeles, California.

In 2016, gasoline prices in the East Coast region as a whole remained relatively stable, despite several disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew and two separate incidents on the Colonial Pipeline, a major supply source for the East Coast. The Torrance refinery in California returned to operation in May and contributed to the West Coast average gasoline price declining from US$0.50/gal. above the national average (January - May) to US$0.41 above the national average (May - November). The average West Coast gasoline price is almost always higher than the national average, and as of 12 November, the West Coast gasoline price was US$0.44 above the national average.

Gasoline prices continue to be closely linked to crude oil prices. Total petroleum and other liquids production continues to outpace consumption globally, resulting in growing inventories and downward pressure on prices. The spot price for Brent, a key global crude oil benchmark, was US$45.96 per barrel as of 21 November, US$3.47 per barrel below the price from the same time in 2015.

EIA’s November Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasts that both crude oil and gasoline prices will continue to decrease in the coming months, with US average gasoline prices reaching a low of US$1.97/gal. in January 2017. Retail gasoline prices are forecast to average US$2.27/gal. in 2017, compared to US2.13/gal. in 2016.

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