Hot Topics: Fuel Special
Worst summer on record
Rampant fuel inflation has stranglehold on truckers

By Terry Scruton
senior writer

Though Hurricane Katrina sent diesel prices through the roof in September, the rising cost of fuel has been an accident waiting to happen since the first days of summer and professional truckers were among the first casualties.

Following a dip in May, prices began to climb again in June and never looked back.

A strong demand for gasoline and diesel pushed U.S. oil refineries to their capacity early this summer. This, coupled with a bleak forecast issued for this year’s hurricane season by the National Weather Service, saw prices rise to $2.234 per gallon the first week of June.

Crude oil prices also continued their record-setting climb in June, hitting $60 per barrel for the first time ever. The day after Katrina hit, oil prices shot up to a record $70.85 per barrel.

Heading into July, threats to oil refineries and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico from Tropical Storm Cindy, and Hurricane Dennis caused another spike in both oil and diesel prices.

The national average price of on-highway diesel hit a record high for the third week in a row in the week ending July 11. The national average rose 6.6 cents to $2.408 per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Hurricane Emily caused another spike in July, driving prices in New England above $3 per gallon, according to ProMiles.

Threats of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia and nuclear in Iran drove oil and diesel prices even higher in August. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, diesel prices in early August hit $2.407 per gallon, just shy of the record high set in July.

Meanwhile, refinery fires and shutdowns sent prices in California hurtling toward the $3 mark. Some stations in the state sailed by that mark without slowing down, topping out near $3.40 per gallon in mid-August.

At the same time, the national average for diesel rose to $2.567 per gallon, a staggering 74.2 cents higher than prices for the same week in 2004.

In the week before Katrina, diesel prices showed no signs of slowing down, climbing to a national average of $2.588 per gallon. LL