U.S. gasoline prices decline amid lower gasoline demand and falling crude oil prices
On November 20, 2023, the Monday before Thanksgiving, the retail price of regular gasoline averaged $3.29 per gallon (gal) across the United States, 10% less than the same time last year. After adjusting for inflation (real terms), retail gasoline prices this Thanksgiving weekend are 13% lower than last year, but they remain higher than pre-pandemic levels for the third year. This Thanksgiving, the American Automotive Association (AAA) forecasts 55 million people will travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday, a 2% increase compared with 2022.
Typically, U.S. retail gasoline prices follow a seasonal trend: prices increase in late summer when people drive more frequently and then decline going into the winter. Less gasoline demand than usual this fall and an early transition to winter-blend gasoline in California helped accelerate the decline in prices. Regulations on gasoline vapor pressure allow refiners to switch to less expensive components to produce gasoline in the fall, which tends to reduce gasoline prices.
Despite crude oil production cuts by OPEC+ members over the last year, concerns about slowing economic growth reducing world oil demand have continued to push crude oil prices down. The Brent crude oil price declined 15% from its most recent peak of $96.55 per barrel (b) on September 27 to $82.32/b on November 20, reaching its lowest level since July. Crude oil prices are the primary driver of U.S. gasoline prices, making up 55% of the total cost to produce a gallon of gasoline.
U.S. gasoline prices vary regionally, reflecting local supply and demand conditions, different fuel specifications required by state laws, and taxes. Regional gasoline prices are usually highest on the West Coast because of the region’s limited connections with other major refining centers, tight local supply and demand conditions, and gasoline specifications that make it more costly to manufacture. West Coast prices as of November 20 averaged $4.42/gal, down 8% since the same time last year.
The Rocky Mountain region faces similar logistical constraints as the West Coast, although overall the region has both less supply and demand. Rocky Mountain gasoline retail prices averaged $3.20/gal on November 20, down 12% from 2022.
Gasoline prices are usually the lowest on the Gulf Coast, which holds about half of U.S. refining capacity and produces more gasoline than it consumes. On November 20, the average retail gasoline price on the Gulf Coast was $2.79/gal, down 8% from the same time last year.
On the East Coast, which has the most gasoline demand of the five regions, retail gasoline prices averaged $3.17/gal, down 11% from 2022. In the Midwest, prices decreased 11% from this time last year to average $3.12/gal on the Monday before Thanksgiving.