Gas Guzzler: Prices At the Pump Jump Across Northeast Ohio

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(AAA) - Gas prices increased in Northeast Ohio for another week.  Motorists will find prices jumped 9.6 cents for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline.  The current price at the pump is $2.637. The national price at the pump is $2.675.

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge, oil prices fell Monday $1.90 per barrel to close at $78.68 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

It appears the primary reason for the day's drop in oil prices was a rebound in the value of the US dollar when compared to a basket of other currencies. A weaker US dollar makes oil cheaper and more attractive for foreign investors to buy and helps drive up the market price.  Oil prices peaked today just north of $81.50 per barrel before the dollar began gaining strength and placing downward pressure on oil prices.

Over the course of last week, market oil prices jumped past the $80 per barrel mark for the first time since September 2008.  The majority of indicators suggest oil may not have room to go much further past the $80 mark in the near future than it has already climbed in the past week barring unforeseen events.  First and foremost, it seems much of the steam behind the initial surge in market oil prices has already dissipated.  After breaking through the $65-$75 price range it had held for more than 11 weeks, oil climbed nearly 15% in price in one week mostly due to a significantly weakened US dollar and some positive economic data.

While the weakness of the dollar remains a long term concern, other major fundamentals also suggest dramatic spikes in price are unlikely in the short term.  Global oil supplies remain vast, with US supplies of crude nearly 30% greater than they were at this time last year, according the US Energy Information Administration. Also, the fall season is typically a time of lower demand for gasoline and other petroleum products.

A report released last week by the Federal Highway Administration revealed the number of vehicle miles traveled by motorists rose by 1.9 billion miles in August 2009 when compared to August 2008.  It is important to keep the year-to-year increase in its proper context.   In August 2008, retail gasoline prices were still falling from their record highs and the full weight of the recession was just being brought to bear on the American economy.  Therefore, a year-to-year comparison of VMT is not exactly an "apples-to-apples" deduction.