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The price of diesel jumped by 1.5 cents nationwide to $2.441 a gallon, the Energy Information Administration reported Aug. 31, as much of the nation’s oil exploration and refining capacity was shut down because of two severe-weather events.

Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco wreaked havoc after coming ashore off the Gulf of Mexico, near where much of the country’s gasoline and diesel is produced.

Trucking’s main fuel increased for just the second time in the past seven weeks.

Natural gas and propane join electric power as alternatives to diesel. Host Seth Clevenger talks with Chad Lindholm of Clean Energy and Stuart Weidie of Alliance Autogas. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

Diesel cost $2.426 a gallon last week. Still, at $2.441, the price is 53.5 cents less expensive than it was at this time last year. Gasoline jumped even more significantly, by 4 cents nationwide, highlighted by a hefty 8.5¢ increase in the Central Atlantic.

The diesel price increased in all 10 regions EIA surveys each week. Nine regions saw an increase of more than a penny. The biggest jump was in the Midwest, where diesel climbed 2.1 cents to $2.329. Diesel there is 54.5 cents per gallon less expensive than last year. The smallest increase was in New England, just two-tenths of a cent to $2.622. Diesel in that region is 40.5 cents less expensive than a year ago.

The most expensive diesel continues to be in California, where the price increased 1.1 cents to $3.276. It is 60.9 cents less expensive there than it was a year ago. The least expensive diesel in the nation remains along the Gulf Coast, where the price increased 1.4 cents to $2.188 — 55.2 cents less expensive than at this time in 2019.

The Gulf Coast boasts the lowest price in part because it is home to much of the country’s oil and gasoline production and a large share of the refining capacity.

Laura came ashore near Lake Charles, La., as a Category 4 storm Aug. 27, making it the most powerful storm to hit that state in decades, causing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage. However, oil industry analyst Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group in Chicago, told Transport Topics it appears most of the nation’s refining capacity was spared extensive damage, and those facilities should be back in operation relatively soon.

“From what we are hearing, the refinery damage is not as bad as we had anticipated. A lot of the refineries have restarted,” Flynn said. “However, it is maintenance season for the refineries, and if one goes down, I think the other refiners can pick up the slack.”

Refineries typically plan maintenance in the spring and fall to gear up for stronger fuel demand in the summer and winter months.

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the industry benchmark, closed Aug. 31 at $42.61 a barrel, staying in the narrow range it has been in for the past several months between $39 and $43 a barrel. Still, WTI is 35% lower than what it was a year ago, when it closed at $65.65 a barrel.

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