Well, Houston drivers, it's been a wild ride the past few weeks on the gasoline price roller-coaster! After several months bobbling along somewhere around $3.10 per gallon (self-serve regular), prices started spiking around Groundhog Day and kept climbing through the entire month of February. Ouch! And Spring isn't even here yet! But at least prices have leveled off a little, and even started to drift downward.
According to the local price-spotters at the Houston version of GasBuddy.com, Houston's average pump price is sitting at $3.538 per gallon on March 8, down from a peak 2013 price of about $3.64 per gallon in late February and $3.58 a week ago. This is about fourteen cents below the national average of $3.68 per gallon, with the differential widening slightly.
Statewide, the average is $3.547, which is unusual - Houston is typically slightly higher than the state average. Around the country, statewide averages range from a low of $3.262 in Wyoming to $4.175 in California (we'll ignore Hawaii's $4.382 average - it hurts too much to look at).
Falling crude oil prices are in part responsible for the drop in price. The market price of North American benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate, is at $91.45/barrel this morning after dipping below $90 for a few hours earlier this week. That's down from a high of about $98/barrel early in February. Today's price of European Brent Crude is about $111 per barrel, down from $118 last month. Though crude prices have dropped quickly, gas price declines are being slowed by decreasing gasoline inventories as many refineries begin their spring maintenance program.
GasBuddy.com's Texas members report El Paso has the lowest prices among Texas metropolitan areas surveyed at just $3.468 per gallon Drivers in Midland-Odessa are paying the highest prices of Texas metropolitan areas at $3.612. Fort Worth average of $3.202 is the highest in the state. Cities across the Rockies have the lowest prices in the country, with a low of $3.306 per gallon in Billings, Montana, and similar low prices in Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.
Here in the Houston, area GasBuddy members report a range of prices from just under $3.30 per gallon Baytown to almost $3.80 per gallon near Westheimer and Beltway 8. A year ago, the Houston-area average stood at $3.569 (and rising fast); the national average was about fifteen cents higher. Historically, gas prices have spiked over the local schools' spring break, which begins on March 16. Gas up on Wednesday, everyone!
This week's highest average prices lie with the usual suspects on the east and west coasts. Eighteen metropolitan areas surveyed by GasBuddy have averages over $4.00, from $4.002 in Chico, Calif., to $4.313 in Santa Barbara. New York City comes in at $4.008, with other Empire State cities (and a few in Florida) over $3.90. For once, Honolulu isn't the most expensive town, coming in at $4.289 - a whole 2.4 cents behind Santa Barbara. where motorists shell out are $4.029 on average.Drivers in Peoria and Pennsylvania are paying closest to the national average, about $3.68 per gallon, to fill their tanks.