Gas prices dropped to $3.17 at a Speedway station in Kokomo, Ind., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Local gasoline prices are swinging up and down ever more drastically, a result of a national fuel system that is operating with a shrinking margin for error. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
NEW YORK (AP) — Local gasoline prices are swinging up and down ever more drastically, a result of a national fuel system that is operating with a shrinking margin for error.
Jumps of 20 cents per gallon or more in a single day are becoming more common, for example, according to an AP analysis of daily and weekly price changes at 120,000 U.S. gasoline stations tracked by GasBuddy.com. Sixty-three times this year at least one U.S. metro area has seen such a change. Like the 24-cent increase Decatur, Ill. drivers saw on Jan. 26, or the 24-cent increase in Superior, Wis. on April 30, and the 28-cent increase in Henderson, Ky. on Sept. 19.
Not since 2008 have there been so many 20-cent changes. Last year those happened 58 times. In 2011 they happened just 21 times, and in 2010 just 7 times.
“There’s more and more feast or famine,” says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service and GasBuddy.com.
The problem, analysts say, is a fuel system increasingly vulnerable to short-term shocks. That’s because refiners try to keep stocks of gasoline low to save money, just as other manufacturers aim to operate on a “just-in-time” inventory schedule. The nation has about 26 days’ worth of gasoline demand in storage, Login to read more