Photo by George Lauby
Gas prices on East 4th, Feb. 4
Photo by George Lauby
Fuel prices on Rodeo Road, Jan. 30.
Photo by Jay Huff
New natural gas fuel station off Newberry Road.
The price of regular gas dropped to $3.03 a gallon in North Platte just before Christmas and stayed that low through the holidays, but skyrocketed 40 cents in the last three weeks.
Brent crude, the benchmark used to price oil that most U.S. refineries use to make gasoline, is up 9 percent since mid-December to $115.55. Gasoline prices are rising much faster.
Nationwide, the average gas price is up 18 cents in three weeks. According to a Fox News analysis, the low value of the dollar is helping drive the price higher. Others say hungry investors are looking for a place to put their money, and betting on gasoline. Supply and demand is not a problem, Fox said.
Apparently, the price of gas cannot be predicted by politicians. A few weeks before the November election, Republicans blamed the White House for prices that neared $4 a gallon ($6 in California.) But prices started downward before the election and continued to go lower through the long holiday season.
The Obama administration then predicted relatively low gasoline prices for the next two years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The EIA said the Brent Crude Oil spot price, which averaged $112 a barrel in 2012, should fall to $105 a barrel in 2013 and $99 a barrel in 2014 as new pipeline capacity and production cheapen the cost of oil, and the cost of moving oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
The EIA predicted gas would drop 20-30 cents a gallon below the 2012 average price.
Just what the price of gas will be in North Platte is unclear. Prices vary widely all over the nation.
As Rich Maline of North Platte filled his tank Jan. 22 at North Platte’s Gas Stop, he told the Bulletin he didn’t have much confidence in prices coming down even if the government forecasted it.
Turns out he was right.
On Jan. 18, regular gas in North Platte was $3.03-$3.09 a gallon, but it shot up 10 cents overnight. It has gone higher three times since, most recently a 10 cent increase on Feb. 4.
That's nearly $1 a gallon higher than the price in Denver just two weeks ago.
On Jan. 18, a Safeway store on East 48th Ave. in Denver sold gas for an eye-popping $2.56 a gallon. The price at more than 60 Denver stores was less than $2.85 a gallon on Jan. 22, according to a report on gasbuddy.com.
Since then, gas prices in Denver have also gone higher, but continue to be far less than in North Platte.
On Monday, there were 28 Denver stations selling gas for less than $3.10 a gallon. gasbuddy reported. The lowest price was $2.95 a gallon at a Shell station on West Colfax.
Nebraska has higher average gas prices than every state to the north, south and west, except for Kansas and California, according to the AAA Motor Club.
Tom Licking, a rancher from Seneca in the Sandhills told the Bulletin recently that gas prices in North Platte are typically lower than the Seneca area.
But nationally, supplies are going up and demand is coming down, the EIA said.
U.S. total crude oil production in 2012 was about 6.4 million barrels a day, an notable increase of 0.8 million barrels from 2011, the EIA said.
That daily supply is expected to increase to 7.3 million barrels in 2013 and to 7.9 million in 2014 – which would be the highest annual production since 1988, thanks largely to new oil wells in the Bakkan formation centered below North Dakota, Montana and southern Canada.
Meanwhile, total U.S. liquid fuels consumption averaged 20.8 million barrels in 2005 but by last year fell to 18.8 million barrels a day, the EIA said.
Total consumption could remain flat – around 18.8 million barrels a day -- for the next two years, the EIA said.
On the east edge of North Platte, a new service station that sells liquid natural gas is set to open on the west side of the Flying J Travel Center.
Construction began in November. The fuel stop, a $500,000 project, will primarily fuel semi-trucks, according to plans.
Natural gas is relatively plentiful, helping drive down energy costs in the U.S. and Nebraska.