Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Peak Oil Crisis: Gasoline in 2012

 In recent days there has been much discussion in the press about what might happen to gasoline prices in the coming year.

Cognizant of the fact that retail gasoline is currently running nearly 30 cents per gallon higher than it was in January 2008 the year when prices topped out at a national average of $4.11 and that gasoline futures have risen by 30 cents a gallon in the last few weeks, there is reason for concern. Typical of the stories is one from the Los Angeles Times that quotes Tom Kloza, long-time chief analyst for the Oil Price Information Service and the go-to guy when one needs numbers and forecasts on gasoline prices.

Kloza notes that for the last decade gasoline futures prices, which ultimately determine pump prices, have risen from an autumn low to a spring high by an average of 83 percent. During these years, the annual winter-spring price surge has varied anywhere from 52 to 169 percent making higher prices by summer a fairly sure bet. This year the 2011 low for gasoline on the NY futures market likely will turn out to have been $2.44 a gallon on November 25. If one does the arithmetic using the average price jump of 83 percent, futures prices could be expected to top out in the vicinity of $4.46 a gallon next spring. Adding in the additional 60 cents to get the gasoline taxed and to the nozzle of your pump, we could theoretically be paying a national average on the order of $5.00 a gallon before the 4th of July. This of course assumes that nothing bad happens in the Middle East that restricts or seriously threatens the flow of oil exports and sends prices much higher.

The $5 scenario is too much for Kloza so he settles for a fall-to-spring increase of only 40-45 percent this year which has pump prices topping out between $3.90 and $4.25 a gallon. An increase of only 40-45 percent, of course, would be the smallest winter-spring price rally in this century, but $4 a gallon is something the average American has seen before and can comprehend - forecasting $5 gasoline for six months from now is simply not acceptable considering the economic and political havoc it would be likely to cause. More


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