It's the kind of news that Americans waiting for holiday spending bills to arrive don't want to hear: “Even with increasing energy production in the U.S., declining fuel consumption, and improving fuel efficiency, Americans may still face rising gasoline prices in 2013."
The quote comes from Gregg Laskoski, one of the senior petroleum analysts at GasBuddy.com. That's the fuel price spotting service used by several million smartphone users to report the highest and lowest gasoline and diesel prices they encounter.
GasBuddy's 2013 forecast hedges its bets on whether America's fuel bills will indeed be higher or lower this year, citing a number of factors that could cause prices to rise or fall. Among them are the following:
- The value of the U.S. dollar over the course of the year: "When the dollar loses value, crude oil climbs higher and Americans pay more for gasoline."
- Uncertainty over the level of U.S. fuel exports in 2013: "As of January 2013, the Energy Information Administration reports that exports have risen 217% in the last 10 years, most recently rising to nearly three million barrels per day. The amount of products exported amounts to over 16% of what Americans consume everyday."
- The effects of hurricanes that may threaten fuel infrastructure along the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard: "Hurricane season has brought significant harm to oil infrastructure in the last decade, and while hurricanes are not guaranteed to impact such facilities, such an event could interrupt notable infrastructure."
- The dependability of the nation's refineries after several problems in 2012: "We'll also see whether refineries have sufficiently addressed the weaknesses that were exposed last year."
Despite the caveats, GasBuddy sees the median price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. starting out at around $3.29 a gallon in January before rising to an early peak of $3.95 a gallon in April.
Summer gas prices are expected to range between $3.60 and $3.73 a gallon, the forecast said. By December, the median price could fall back to $3.33 a gallon.
Among U.S. cities, gasoline prices could rise as high as $4.35 to $4.65 in Los Angeles, $4.10 to $4.40 a gallon in New York, $4.35 to $4.60 in Chicago, and $3.85 to $4.15 in Houston.
The median price for a gallon of diesel is expected to range from $3.90 in January to $4.12 a gallon by October.
“The saying goes that all you can be sure of in life is death and taxes. I’d add the seasonal run-up in fuel prices every spring as something I’m sure of in life,” said Patrick DeHaan, the other senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.