Recent increases in diesel and gasoline prices have translated once again into expectations that costs for both will move even higher the rest of this year and into 2017, according to the Energy Department’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook.
Diesel prices now are forecast to average $2.34 per gallon for all of this year and $2.69 per gallon in 2017. This is 7 cents and 5 cents higher, respectively, than in May’s report. This also follows a May projection for this year that was 16 cents higher than the April forecast, as well a a May forecast for 2017 that was 31 cents higher than the previous month.
After averaging $2.08 per gallon in the first quarter of 2016, diesel is expected to average $2.30 for the second quarter. It's then expected to continue rising each quarter before hitting an average of $2.86 per gallon in the final three months of 2017.
For comparison, dieel averaged $2.71 per gallon in 2015 and $2.83 per gallon in 2014. The latest weekly average is at $2.407 per gallon, up for the 15th time out of the past 16 weeks.
The reason the DOE expects higher fuel prices is that crude oil price forecasts have been revised upward. Brent crude oil prices are forecast to average $43 per barrel in 2016 and $52 per barrel in 2017, $3 and $1 higher, respectively, than forecast in last month’s STEO. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices are forecast to be slightly lower than Brent in 2016 and to be the same as Brent in 2017.
Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $47 per barrel in May, a $5 increase from April and the fourth consecutive monthly increase since reaching a 12-year low of $31 per barrel in January, according to the report. Growing global oil supply disruptions, rising oil demand, and falling U.S. crude oil production contributed to the price increase.
During the April-through-September summer driving season of 2016, U.S. regular gasoline retail prices are forecast to average $2.27 per gallon, 6 cents higher than forecast last month but 36 cents lower than last summer. The most current weekly average for gasoline is at $2.381 per gallon, the highest level so far this year, but down nearly 40 cents from this time in 2015
U.S. regular gasoline retail prices are forecast to average $2.13 per gallon in 2016 and $2.27 per gallon in 2017, 5 cents higher and 3 cents higher, respectively, than forecast in last month’s outlook. In contrast to diesel prices, gasoline prices are expected to ease in the final quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, topping out at $2.39 per gallon in the third quarter of next year.