"These various blends of gasoline, which must be used and which can vary greatly from one metropolitan area to another, really impact upon the fungibility of our nation's gasoline supply. That means, for example, if we happen to lose a refiner this summer who makes the specific blend of gasoline for the city of Milwaukee, it's not like anyone will be able to step up and just ship in the gasoline that is made for Chicago or for Detroit. Consumers in Milwaukee will then be stuck because no other refinery can just step in and pick up the slack. Consequently, prices in Milwaukee will go up and remain high until the original bottleneck is somehow addressed or remedied," he says.
So far so goodCurrent inventories for oil and gasoline are at good, healthy levels, says Sundstrom, who adds that about the only things that we really need to be concerned about is the weather -- like another major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico -- and what might possibly happen in the turbulent Middle East. "Those are the potential things that could be sitting out there that can possibly complicate the universe and what will happen with the price of oil very quickly."
Another big question, too, is the potential impact on U.S. energy prices that any cap-and-trade legislation might have if it is passed by Congress in the near future, says Banaszak. "No one right now can really say how or how much such a carbon tax will impact upon the cost of a gallon of gas." Adopting such a far-reaching policy could, separate from market forces, change the price structure for a lot of things in our economy and impact America's economic vitality.
"And everything, ultimately, is going to depend on how quickly the economy recovers and how people will respond to energy prices," says Flynn. "Ultimately, we should be happy if we start consuming more oil regardless of price because that might be a sign the economy has recovered and we're getting back to normal."
So enjoy the comparatively low gasoline prices while they last and don't be afraid to hit the road with your family this summer.
However, don't consider these comparatively low gasoline prices an excuse not to purchase that fuel-inefficient vehicle you've had your eye on. Odds are you will come to regret that decision when economic growth and energy prices come back into balance.