Wednesday AM December 16th, 2009

After fluctuations in 2008, gasoline prices settled back down in 2009. Ed Mayberry talked with an energy fellow with Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy about what’s in store for 2010.

gas pumpAlthough there’s still conflict in the Middle East, we’ve had no major weather incidents, and prices have somewhat stabilized.  Amy Myers Jaffe with Rice University’s James Baker Institute for Public Policy has been tracking gasoline prices as 2010 draws near.

“And I think the jury on that is still out.  We have two competing factors.  The long-term outlook for gasoline demand in the United States is negative.  In other words, we’re going to have more fuel-efficient cars, and so therefore we’re expecting actually that the big increases in gasoline use that we’ve seen over the past decade are going to ease in the United States.  But our gasoline price is tied not a hundred per cent to how much we’re using — it’s also tied to the international geopolitics that moves the price of oil around.”

Talk of building new gasoline refineries has died down, as Jaffe explains. 

“Ironically, it’s not an issue, and that is because oil is a cyclical business, and of course the global economy tends to be on a, has downturns.  And so we’re currently both in a global economic downturn, even though people are talking about recovery.  But at the same time, while we were in growth over the past decade, a lot of companies did actually invest in refining — not so much in the United States, but in other places like in Asia and elsewhere.  And so what we’re actually coming into is a period of a surplus of refining capacity.”

AAA Texas reports the nationwide price at the pump for regular unleaded gasoline remains at about $2.63 and the Texas average is at about $2.50.  Houston’s average is $2.46 a gallon.  Ed Mayberry, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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