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Gasoline Pump Price to Drop This Year as Demand Holds Steady

Consumers in the U.S. will pay less at the pump this year than in 2012 as demand remains steady, the U.S. Energy Department said.

Regular-grade gasoline will average $3.44 a gallon, up from $3.43 in last month’s forecast, the department’s Energy Information Administration said today in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Prices in 2012 averaged $3.63 a gallon.

Prices may average $3.34 in 2014, the department estimated.

Gasoline consumption this year will average 8.73 million barrels a day, down from 8.74 million in last month’s projection and unchanged from last year. In its first projection for 2014 consumption, the department said demand for next year will also be 8.73 million barrels a day.

Distillate demand, including heating oil and diesel, will rise 0.8 percent to 3.8 million barrels a day this year, down from the last month’s outlook of 3.82 million. Consumption in 2014 is estimated to be 3.83 million barrels.

The department expects households heating primarily with oil to spend an average of about $2,558 during the winter season from Oct. 1 to March 31. That’s 22 percent higher than last winter, as a result of a 3.5 percent gain in prices and an 18 percent increase in consumption. The December forecast projected consumers would spend an average of about $2,544.

About 6 percent of U.S. households depend on heating oil for space heating. The Northeast accounts for about 80 percent of these households.

Total U.S. fuel demand for 2013 will rise to 18.71 million barrels a day this year, from 18.65 million barrels in 2012. The December outlook was for 18.73 million barrels a day in 2013. Demand will increase to 18.77 million barrels in 2014.

Net fuel exports will slip to 940,000 barrels a day this year, from 950,000 barrels in 2012. The previous forecast projected 2013 exports would average 850,000 barrels. Next year, net exports may jump to 1.03 million barrels a day.

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