U.S. diesel price retreats from record high

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The national average retail price of a gallon of diesel fell 2.8 cents from last week’s record high to $4.149 for the week ending Monday, May 5. But the price — which had soared 22.2 cents in the previous three weeks — is still $1.357 higher than the same week last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

All regions tracked by DOE except one saw price decreases. The largest decrease by region, 4.0 cents, was found in the Lower Atlantic, where week-over-week prices fell to $4.117. The smallest price decrease by region, 0.9 cent, was found in both New England and on the West Coast. In New England, week-over-week prices fell to $4.337, and on the West Coast, they declined to $4.303.

The nation’s most expensive diesel by region, $4.345, was found in the Middle Atlantic, where prices fell 3.1 cents. California, which DOE tracks separately, recorded the nation’s highest diesel price, $4.382; prices in that state declined 0.8 cent last week. The nation’s least expensive diesel by region, $4.084, was found on the Gulf Coast, where prices fell 2.9 cents.

The only region that didn’t see a price decline was the Rocky Mountains, where prices increased 1.5 cents to $4.156. For state-by-state diesel prices, updated daily, click here.

The soaring price of diesel and other fuels has become a hot political topic during the campaign season:

  • Two of the three U.S. senators running for president, John McCain, R-Ariz., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have advocated a summer suspension of the federal fuel tax. Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, D-Ill., has said he is against the suspension because it would be a short-term move that would save consumers little. Both Democrats support a windfall-profits tax on oil companies.
  • U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced legislation April 25 that would require the entirety of any fuel surcharge to be passed to the motor carrier or other party directly responsible for paying at the pump. The Trust in Reliable Understanding of Consumer Costs (TRUCC) Act (S.2910) would amend Section 14102 of Title 49 of the U.S. Code, which deals with the responsibilities of freight carriers and intermediaries such as brokers. The bill would create no uniform fuel-surcharge standard, but would require disclosure of the full amount as a line item in the contract and the passing on of that full amount, Snowe said.
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., introduced the House version of the Senate bill on April 30. The bill, HR 5934, was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

  • Snowe also has introduced the Diesel Tax Parity Act, which temporarily would lower the federal diesel tax from 24.3 cents a gallon to 18.3 cents a gallon — the same price as the gas tax — through Dec. 31. The bill, S.2896, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, of which Snowe is a member.
  • A bill introduced in the New York Senate would eliminate state fuel taxes for the summer, bringing the average price of a gallon of New York diesel from $4.58 to $3.93. Bill S7594-A — sponsored by Sens. Andrew Lanza, Charles Fuschillo and Joe Robach, all Republicans — would eliminate state fuel taxes from May 27 through Sept. 2. The bill would allow local governments the option of waiving local sales taxes of 14 cents per gallon.