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The U.S. Energy Department this week revised its expectations for fuel prices this year, but they aren’t expected to go wildly higher.

The department's Short Term Energy Outlook calls for on-highway diesel to average $2.86 per gallon this year, 2 cents lower than in last month’s outlook, and then rise to an average of $3.03 per gallon in 2016.

This compares to an average price of $3.83 per gallon last year.

Diesel is expected to move slightly lower into the third quarter of this year, averaging $2.81 per gallon, before hitting $2.86 in the final quarter of 2014. It's projected to top out in the third quarter of 2016 at $3.10.

The report also forecasts regular grade gasoline, which averaged $3.36 per gallon in 2014, to average $2.48 in 2015, 4 cents higher than in last month's report, and $2.55 in 2016, which is unchanged from the June projection.

This week the average U.S. price of on-highway diesel was at $2.832 per gallon, down $1.081 from the same time last year, while regular grade gasoline came in at $2.793, 88.5 cents less than a year ago.

The department also forecast Brent crude oil prices will average $60 per barrel this year and $67 in 2016, while West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices in both 2015 and 2016 are expected to average $5 per barrel less than the Brent price. These estimates are the same as a month ago.

For reference, WTI settled at a little below $53 per barrel on Thursday in New York, still down about 50% from highs hit in 2014.

Part of the reason for the projected hike in crude prices is that U.S. oil production is expected to keep falling at least into early 2016. Fuel prices will be pushed up by increased crude costs and higher demand for diesel and gasoline, with the latter expected to ease slightly compared to this year but higher than 2014's level.

Evan Lockridge

Evan Lockridge

Business Contributing Editor

Trucking journalist since 1990, in the news business since early ‘80s.