Pe scurt: fracking în Midwest, ceea ce înseamnă export de diesel spre Europa. Dar povestea e mai complicată. Două materiale încearcă să explice:
The price Americans pay for fuel at the pump has fallen to its lowest in more than then two years. At $3.19 per gallon, you can fill up a 12-gallon tank for less than $40.
So, what’s going on? And will prices keep going down?
As Petroleum Goes, So Goes Gasoline
The Energy Information Administration estimate that more than 70 percent of what you pay for in a gallon of gasoline is the raw material from which its made: crude oil.
So, unsurprisingly, the chart for gasoline prices and the chart for petroleum prices look quite similar.
Since the spring of 2011, prices have been moving up and down in a tight band from $3.30 to $3.98 before the recent slide.
The spring of 2011, you may recall, was when the Arab Spring began. The complex international and intranational dynamics that set in motion may have pushed prices higher.
But they couldn’t go too high because, at least here in the U.S., demand has softened. Americans are buying (slightly) more fuel-efficient cars, on average. And younger people are driving less.
Which is all a pretty rational response to the big run up in gas prices during the mid-2000s. As you can see from this April chart of vehicle miles and gas prices:
The average price of gasoline nationwide has dropped from $3.74 per gallon in February to $3.19 today. In states like Missouri and Texas, gasoline has sunk below $3 per gallon at the pump, a price not seen in years.
Economists tend to think a fall in gasoline prices can help stimulate the economy by giving people more money to spend on other goods. Think of it like a tax cut. Earlier this month, the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that falling gas prices could add 0.3 percentage points to third-quarter GDP growth.
But why is this happening? The reasons for the recent fall in gasoline prices are varied, but here are some of the big ones:
— Gasoline prices typically rise in the summer and go down in the winter. That’s because people take more vacations when the weather’s nice, and refiners have to put out a pricier “summer blend” of gasoline that’s mixed with butane and other ingredients to prevent evaporation in the heat. Once the summer’s over, gas prices typically fall again. So that’s worth mentioning. But this isn’t the only factor here.
— The supply of gasoline is up — for odd reasons. U.S. stockpiles of gasoline were at
210 million barrels in the first week of November, up about 4 percent from the same period last year. Normally, refineries cut back when stockpiles are high. But there are other forces at play here.
Many Gulf Coast refiners are taking advantage of the boom in shale-oil drilling in the Midwest and producing ever more diesel for export to Europe and Asia. That’s a lucrative business. And that refining process also produces more gasoline for domestic consumption. So, as The Wall Street Journal reports, refiners can still make a profit from exporting diesel abroad even if they’re creating a glut of gasoline here at home.