After dipping to the lowest prices of the year in mid-December, Houston's gas prices followed an upward trend as 2013 began. From a low that flirted with the $3.00 per gallon mark (self-service regular) on December 19, prices had climbed back to an average near $3.20 late last week. They've retreated slightly from that recent high, however: as of Tuesday, January 15, the local average stands at $3.177 per gallon, down six tenths of a cent since yesterday. That's as reported by price-spotters for the local version of GasBuddy.com.
Houston's average price is about eight cents below the national average of $3.259, but about two cents above the Texas average of $3.160. Surveys of local stations by AAA suggest that prices for diesel fuel have held steady for several months, declining only a few cents as the price of regular fell by almost half a dollar during the fall months.
Rising crude oil prices are in part responsible for the recent increase in gasoline prices. The market price of North American benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate, stands at a four-month high above $94 per barrel today, up almost $10 per barrel since late October. That's still well below the high of about $107 per barrel in April, at the same time as Houston's 2012 high of $3.89 per gallon. Today's price of European Brent Crude is about $112 per barrel, within 5 per cent of the fall prices. Rising gasoline inventories during the winter driving season, however, have acted to offset the rise in crude prices.
GasBuddy.com's Texas members report that the statewide average price is holding steady; near the bottom of a nationwide range from $2.783 in Colorado to $4.035 in Hawaii. Lubbock has the lowest prices among Texas metropolitan areas in the GasBuddy survey at just $2.919 per gallon and falling, while College Station's average of $3.193 is highest. Cities in the central and southern Rockies are enjoying the lowest prices in the country, where prices in Salt Lake City and Denver are both below the $2.80 per gallon mark and falling.
A year ago, the Houston average stood at $3.204; the national average was about 15 cents higher. The differential between the Houston and national averages has narrowed from about 35 cents in late summer to less than a dime in recent weeks as the national average held steady while Houston's rose.
This week's highest average prices lie with the usual suspects on the east and west coasts. California's average is $3.613 while the New England states are also in the $3.60 to $3.70 range, with New Yorkers paying the mainland's highest prices at $3.71 per gallon. No city among GasBuddy's metro areas is showing an average price of more than $4.00 per gallon, but drivers in Honolulu are coughing up $3.977 on average. Drivers in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Huntsville, Ala., are closest to the national average, paying about $3.26 per gallon to fill their tanks.