For the first time, U.S. diesel price crosses $4 mark

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After two weeks of declines, the national average retail price of a gallon of diesel crossed the $4 mark, soaring 10.4 cents to a record high of $4.059 for the week ending Monday, April 14.

The price is $1.182 higher than the same week last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. For five weeks prior to March 31, the diesel price had set successive record highs and was poised to hit the $4 mark after hitting $3.989 on March 24. But two weeks of small declines temporarily delayed the historic leap.

All regions tracked by DOE — some of which already have seen $4-plus diesel prices for several weeks — saw increases. Two regions — the Central Atlantic and the West Coast — both saw the largest increase, 12.4 cents. The Central Atlantic’s average price of $4.266 was the nation’s highest.

The smallest price increase, 6.5 cents, was in the Rocky Mountain region, where the price rose to $4.039. The nation’s least expensive diesel by region, $4 even, was in the Gulf Coast region, where week-over-week prices climbed 10.6 cents.

For state-by-state diesel prices, updated daily, click here.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy and Summer Fuels Outlook, released last week, projects diesel prices to average about $3.73 a gallon this summer — up more than 88 cents from this past summer’s average of $2.85 per gallon. EIA also is predicting the national average to be about $3.62 per gallon in 2008.

EIA’s report cites rising world oil consumption, low global surplus oil production capacity, insufficient non-OPEC oil supply growth relative to demand, and supply concerns as being the key factors driving the short-term forecast.

Scattered, loosely organized protests by owner-operators against climbing diesel prices continued last week and over the weekend.

A Gorhan, N.H.-based trucking company elected to park 20 trucks of its fleet to save money on fuel, the Associated Press reported today, April 15. Jeff Webster of Currier Trucking told the AP that his trucks are making more money sitting than they are running. Webster told the news agency that the rising cost of fuel, coupled with paper mills in the area going out of business, have caught up with his company financially and that he’s had to lay off as many as 30 people; he’s also looking to sell his unused trucks.

Webster, who spends about $1,200 to fill one of his trucks, told the AP he was losing hundreds of dollars every time it made a delivery, and that his company also has taken to making only local deliveries. “We’re probably staying within 150 miles of here, and I don’t want to go any further than that,” Webster told the news agency.

Shorty Whittington, first vice chairman of the American Trucking Associations and president of Grammer Industries, met with President Bush last week about the strain of high diesel prices on the nation’s trucking industry. Bush told Whittington he recognized the negative impact of high fuel prices on the trucking industry, as well as American citizens.

Whittington was invited to the White House to participate in a meeting discussing the benefits available to small businesses resulting from the bonus depreciation provision, which is included in the federal Economic Stimulus package enacted in February.