Views on commodities and energy
With the summer driving season, under way, American drivers are once again feeling the impact of higher gasoline prices on their wallets. Read the full story here. Martin Hogarty, a chauffeur from the Bronx, interviewed near a gasoline station on 46th St. and 10th Avenue near Times Square in Manhattan this week, said he’s paying double what he used to pay for gasoline to fill up the car he uses for his chauffeuring business, a GMC Yukon sports utility vehicle. Gasoline prices at the station stood at $2.77 a gallon.
For those who’ve decided to invest in more fuel efficient cars, however, the choice is now paying off. Jose Ferro, a cab driver who was also filling up at the 46th St. station began leasing a hybrid taxi about eight weeks ago said the higher leasing fee is already paying off as gasoline prices climb higher.
Ferro, 72, a retired television commercial producer, who has been driving a cab for about three years said he used to fork out $38-$45 to fill up the Ford he used to lease, compared with about $10 to fill up the hybrid, which means a little bit extra take-home pay.
Despite Americans’ complaints about the rising cost of gasoline, Reuters data shows that the price Americans are paying for gasoline is well below prices drivers in many other developing countries pay.
While the summer driving season has been underway for only two weeks, gasoline prices have already blown expert forecasts for highs for the summer.
Average prices at the pump on Monday were $2.62 a gallon, according to AAA, up 16 percent from just a month ago, and over the $2.50 a gallon high that AAA had forecast for the entire summer. Last week, AAA spokesman Geoff Sundstrom said the group revised its forecast for the summer high to $2.75 a gallon.
U.S. gasoline demand has showed signs of picking up over the past month, edging up 1.6 percent over the past for weeks according to government data. Analysts say lower pump prices have led some Americans to drive more. U.S. demand fell last year for the first time since 1991 as gasoline and crude prices raced to record highs, with further pressure coming later in the year due to the economic crisis.
The above graph shows five years of gasoline consumption in the world’s top consumer, compared with the average price for a gallon of U.S. gasoline.
The amount of money a U.S. refiner can make producing gasoline in the United States has improved in recent weeks relative to diesel thanks to gasoline production cuts and a heavy downturn in diesel demand from the U.S. trucking industry as the economic crisis deepens. Diesel has been the most profitable fuel a producer can make since July 2007 — an unusual occurrence for the less difficult-to-make fuel largely tied to high freight activity and demand from the under resourced global electricity sector.
The early evidence of a reversal in the profitability relationship is already having an impact on what consumers are paying at the pumps: diesel’s price premium to gasoline has dropped from 64 cents a gallon to 43 cents a gallon over the past four weeks, according to auto and travel group AAA.
Gasoline shortages in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and parts of Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ike have driven some consumers to desperate measures as they hunt for places to fill up. People were cutting in long lines, fighting at gas stations, and hoarding gas in multiple containers, according to local news reports.
Hurricane Ike shut 15 refineries in the Gulf Coast’s refinery row and shut several pipelines as well. The outages have driven U.S. gasoline inventories to their lowest levels since 1967, and refinery utilization rates have sunk to their lowest rates on record.
Gasoline shortages in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and parts of Florida have driven some consumers to desperate measures as they hunt for places to fill up. “Some people are even following tankers to the station and then they descend upon the station,” said Randy Bly, a spokesman for the AAA’s Auto Club South Chapter, Rebekah Kebede and Bernie Woodall report.U.S. gasoline inventories shrunk to the lowest level since 1967 after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut Gulf Coast oil refineries. Thursday, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman reiterated that the country was not seeking emergency fuel supplies from abroad.
Elsewhere in commodities:
The CFTC is probing the silver market, the wsj.com reports. In May of this year, the CFTC released a report finding no manipulation of the market. Yet Stephen Obie, acting director of the agency’s division of enforcement, tells the Journal the CFTC takes “the threat of manipulation in the futures and options markets very seriously and employ a number of measures to prevent, identify and prosecute it.”
Funding for two iron ore projects in Peru has been delayed because of the global financial crisis, Australian miner Strike Resources Ltd said on its website.
Just as the U.S. Department of Energy was telling the American public to brace for gasoline prices up to $4.15 cents this summer, 13 people were indicted in New Jersey on charges of stealing the increasingly pricey fuel from the state, according to a press release on the NJ Attorney General’s website.
Twelve of the people charged with gasoline theft were New Jersey government employees, who allegedly filled up their personal vehicles at state-owned gas pumps. The degrees of theft varied wildly, from stealing 12 gallons to more than $1,000 worth gasoline, the press release said.