Mass. gasoline prices up 28 cents in last month

Oil producers in no hurry to ramp up production

JUST A LITTLE over a year ago wholesale crude oil prices went into negative territory, meaning demand was so low and storage space so scarce that for the first time in history sellers were paying buyers to take barrels of oil off their hands.

But now, with COVID loosening its grip on the planet, demand for fuel picking up, and supply holding steady at relatively low levels, prices are surging. A barrel of crude is now selling in the $65 range and prices at the pump in Massachusetts have increased 6 cents a gallon in the last week and 28 cents in the past month, according to AAA Northeast

 The current average price in Massachusetts is $2.75 for a gallon of regular gasoline, up from $2.34 a year ago. Nationally, the current average price is $2.86 a gallon, up from $2.26 a gallon.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

 The pandemic depressed demand for gasoline in 2020, wreaking havoc on the oil industry. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by Saudi Arabia, scaled back production and a crippling deep freeze in Texas this winter led to a downturn in production in the United States.

 As vaccination rates increase and the US economy picks up speed, demand for fuel is rising, but so far OPEC has maintained its lower level of production and the Texas oil industry is still trying to rebound.  The US Energy Information Administration says the United States produced 12.1 million barrels per day in 2019, 11.3 million barrels a day in 2020, and is expected to average 11.1 million barrels a day in 2021.

 The big question is when worldwide oil production will start picking up. So far, perhaps scarred by the downturn in oil prices a year ago, the oil industry has shown no rush to ramp up production. If that trend persists, some forecasters say, gasoline prices could hit $4 a gallon in some states by this summer, which would be an astounding increase.