US Gasoline Prices Dip to Lowest Level in Year

From The Chicago Tribune

Retail gasoline prices have fallen to the lowest level in a year as refineries restored production and stockpiles rose to an eight-month high, blunting criticism of President Barack Obama’s energy policies.

Regular gasoline dropped 9.5 cents, or 2.8 percent from a week earlier, to $3.254 a gallon Monday, the lowest since Dec. 19, 2011, according to data posted on the Energy Department’s website. Crude prices, by comparison, were up 1.9 percent in the same week in New York.

In the Chicago area, regular gas averaged $3.398 Tuesday, down from $3.631 a month ago but up from $3.369 last year at this time, according to AAA-Chicago Motor Club.

“High refinery utilization rates have helped U.S. gasoline stocks,” Abhishek Deshpande, an oil analyst at Natixis in London, said in an emailed response to questions. “Gasoline demand is back to its structurally low levels.”

Prices at the pump rose as high as $3.878 in September, stoking debate over Obama’s policies before the presidential election. Retail costs are down 16 percent since then, with demand for gasoline lagging pre-recession levels, U.S. refineries coming back online after disruptions, and domestic crude production rising.

The United States is riding a technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to produce an increasing share of its domestic fuel needs. Fracking, which uses pressurized water to drive gas and oil from shale rock, has helped America meet 83 percent of its energy needs in the first eight months of this year, the highest annual level since 1991, Energy Department data show. An intelligence advisory panel said last week that the nation may achieve energy independence in as little as 10 years.

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