Are There Fuel Shortages In The US?
By now, RV owners are well aware of the massive spikes in fuel costs over the past 6 months. Whether your rig runs on diesel or gas, prices at the pump have been shocking to say the least.
According to AAA gas prices on May 22, the national average price for gasoline is $4.59/gallon, while the average cost of diesel is $5.56/gallon. A year ago, the average price of gas was $3.04/gallon, and diesel was $3.18/gallon. RVers need to fasten their seatbelts and hold onto their hats because low supplies and high demand is going to push prices up even more over summer.
Fuel shortages in Washington State
According to The New York Post, gas stations in Kennewick, Pasco, and West Richland ran out of gasoline in May 2022. Auburn’s 76 gas stations are programming their signboards and pumps for double-digit prices.
However, a representative of 76 said this does not necessarily mean gas prices will go over $10/gallon for regular and premium gas. Gas prices in Washington are currently around $5.18, so a jump to $10/gallon anytime soon would truly be shocking.
Why are gas prices so high?
In 2020, the world was hit by a global pandemic. In the US, this meant people who traveled for work, vacation, or health reasons traveled a lot less. The reduction in travel reduced the demand for refined crude oil products like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
Fewer US refineries
In an effort to cut costs and avoid flooding the market with excessive amounts of petroleum products, US manufacturers closed down their least profitable refineries, thereby reducing the supply and stabilizing fuel prices.
Then in 2021, things started opening up again. People began traveling again as they went back to work or finally got to return to vacation destinations. The demand for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel was starting to outstrip the supply. But it was still doable and prices weren’t too crazy yet.
In May 2021, Russian hackers wreaked havoc with Colonial Pipeline, the main supplier of gas and diesel from Texas to the southeastern US. The hackers caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down for just 5 days before the pipeline was back up and running. They were able to mitigate the situation by trucking both diesel and gasoline to gas stations in the affected regions. But terrified consumers put a run on the gas stations, panic buying all the gas and diesel they could get their hands on. This began the destabilization of fuel prices in the US.
Russia invaded Ukraine
Now, let’s fast forward to February 26, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. NATO countries (and others) stopped buying Russian diesel and gasoline as part of sanctions on Russia (for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine).
The US began selling more gas and diesel to European countries that previously bought gas and diesel from Russia. This reduced US fuel inventories, while increasing demand for US gas and oil exports to possibly exceed pre-pandemic levels.
When there is a reduction of supply, or an increase in demand, prices naturally go up. But now we have a reduction of the supply of refined oil products and an increase in demand for them. This is what is driving prices through the roof.
Supply and demand
Usually, when prices go up substantially, demand naturally decreases and then prices go down again. However, with ongoing concern about the looming climate crisis, and record profits being earned by petroleum companies, we might not see significant downward trends in fuel prices.
The good news is that even though there are occasional fuel shortages in areas of the US, we are not running out of fuel. According to Wikipedia, the US currently has 714 million barrels of oil in its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
According to Natural Gas Intelligence, new US oil and gas projects have been given a green light, indicating that more crude oil supplies are on the way. The bad news is that without refineries to make that crude oil into gasoline and diesel, we are still likely to endure fuel shortages and high prices for awhile.
“In recent decades, distillate shortages have always been resolved by either a mid-cycle slowdown or an end-of-cycle recession, and there is no reason to think this instance will be different.” – John Kemp, Reuters.
What should RVers expect this summer?
There is no doubt about it: 2022 is going to be an expensive year for fuel. Prices of both gas and diesel could hit close to $10/gallon. Many RVers are responding to fuel price increases by reducing the distances they plan to travel or by curtailing their RV adventures entirely this year. Some campgrounds are already reporting cancelations as RVers adjust their travel plans to account for climbing fuel costs.
There are still many ways RVers can use their RVs this year without breaking the bank. For great tips on how you can save money on RV travel, check out this article on How To Save Money On Fuel This Summer.
Eliminate RV fuel anxiety by planning every fuel stop in advance, before your RV trip begins. By using RV LIFE Trip Wizard to plan your trips in detail, you’ll know exactly when and where you will need fuel for your RV or truck. You can also vet those fuel stops with satellite and street view to make sure you can get in and out safely.
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Lynne lives, travels and works full time in the R-Pod 180 with 3 pointers and 1 small but vital corgi mix named Alice. Lynne began full time RVing as an experiment in 2019, but she quickly fell in love with the convenience, freedom and minimalist lifestyle offered by full time RV living. Lynne is a professional dog trainer, offering mobile and online dog training services through her website at www.mydoggeek.com. You can read about her travel adventures on her blog at: https://rpodadventure.wordpress.com/