MONEY Gas prices

5 Places Where Gas Prices Are Plummeting

gas prices at chevron gas station
Mike Blake—Reuters/Newscom

Prices have dropped at least 10¢ in one week's time.

Nationwide, the price of gasoline keeps inching lower. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the average of a gallon of regular was $2.710 as of Monday, nearly a nickel less than the average one week ago ($2.756).

“All but seven states in the U.S. saw a drop in gasoline prices over the last week,” the researchers at the gas price-tracking site GasBuddy.com noted on Monday. More importantly, the trend for lower and lower gas prices is one that’s expected to stick around for months: “It would appear that the latter half of the summer will bring cheaper gas prices than the first half while this autumn is shaping up to give this past winter a run for its money in terms of cheap gas prices.”

Drivers in some parts of the country are the beneficiaries of a particularly pronounced price break lately. Here are five places where average prices have dropped by 10¢ or more over the past week.

Southern California: Mercifully, gas prices in Los Angeles and Orange counties decreased for nine straight days recently, together lowering the average price of a gallon of regular by about 12¢, according to the (Los Angeles) Daily News. The price dip followed an extraordinarily painful period for drivers, who watched prices at the pump spike by more than 50¢ in a single week, hitting more than $4.50 per gallon at gas stations in places like Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles.

Statewide, the average price for a gallon of regular as of Monday is $3.83, the highest in the country and over $1.10 more than the nationwide average, per AAA data. Still, analysts say California gas prices should drop regularly in the days and weeks ahead, as the supply has improved substantially.

Ohio: Prices at the pump have dropped dropped 17¢ per gallon, on average, in one week. The current average statewide is now $2.46 for a gallon of regular.

Kentucky: Prices dropped 12¢ in one week, according to GasBuddy, and now average $2.50 per gallon.

Indiana: The current average is $2.44 for a gallon of regular, representing a decrease of 11¢ over the past week.

Michigan: Average prices dropped by about 10¢ per gallon over the last week in Michigan, where prices at the pump have also decreased by at least 10¢ in each of the past three weeks.

MONEY Gas prices

Gas Prices Are Freakishly Expensive in This Part of the Country

Gas prices at a Chevron station in Los Angeles, California
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters/Corbis Gas prices at a Chevron station in Los Angeles, California

Prices spiked more than 50¢ in less than a week.

No wonder why California is leading the way in terms of adopting electric cars and buying fuel-efficient hybrids like the Toyota Prius: Gas prices here are far higher compared with the rest of the country, so it makes sense for California drivers to gravitate to vehicles with lower fuel costs.

Lately, gas prices in California are especially out of whack with the rest of the nation. In San Diego, for instance, the average gallon of regular was selling for $3.50 last Wednesday and spiked to over $4 per gallon by Monday. Prices have increased just as dramatically and quickly in Los Angeles and Orange counties too. During the same period, gas prices nationally have been essentially flat, averaging about $2.77.

Tight supplies, thanks partly to diminished production due to repairs and maintenance at refineries, are being blamed for a 70¢ jump in the wholesale price of gasoline. That jump has translated to a quick spike in retail prices at the pump. And drivers are likely to see even higher prices in the near future, as price increases at the wholesale level are routinely passed along to consumers.

“Retail prices are up 50 cents in Los Angeles and the Orange County region,” Gordon Schremp, a senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission, said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That’s not the full 70 cents, so there is probably some additional room to go up a little bit more.”

According to AAA, the average statewide in California increased 28¢ per gallon over the past week, including a 22¢ spike just since last Friday. At the same time, drivers in many other states have been the beneficiaries of price decreases at gas stations: Average per-gallon prices in Indiana and Michigan, for instance, were down more than 10¢ in a week’s time.

“This is a complete disconnect with the rest of the country,” Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, explained to the Los Angeles Times. “This really is illustrative of the fact that California is its own market.”

California gas is subject to especially high local taxes and fees (which add on about 70¢ per gallon), and state rules require that only special low-pollution blends of fuel are used. As a result, California gas stations can only get fuel from a select few refineries. And when demand increases quickly or there are production issues that slow the local supply, California gas prices—which are high compared to the rest of the country to begin with—hit the roof.

Hence current prices ranging from $4.50 to $4.99 per gallon at some gas stations in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles. And hence the outrage of California drivers, who understandably feel like they’ve been getting gouged for months by what they see as opportunistic refineries inflating prices far higher than what’s reasonable.

MONEY Gas

More Low Gas Prices Could Be Coming

A new global forecast illustrates the old law of supply and demand.

MONEY deals

Summer Price Break! 6 Things That Are Actually Cheaper This Summer

Blessedly, bacon and cheese are on the list.

For the most part, consumers are accustomed to seeing prices for a wide range of goods go in only one direction: up, up, and up. Often, this is simply the result of inflation and regular price increases. There are also freak price spikes like the current situation with eggs, which have risen dramatically of late thanks to the bird flu outbreak. And more costly eggs have in turn begun causing price increases everywhere from diners to bakeries.

Thankfully, from time to time consumers get to benefit from the occasional price decrease on goods and services—including some of their favorite treats. Here are a half-dozen things you’ll actually pay less for this summer.

  • Bacon

    Plate of bacon
    Alamy

    While bacon prices aren’t cheap by historical standards, they are significantly cheaper than in the summer of 2014, when they spiked amid low supplies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price for a pound of bacon as of May 2015 was below $5, compared with $5.50 at the start of 2015 and more than $6 last summer. Overall, bacon prices fell 18% over a 12-month span.

  • Gas

    gas prices
    Elise Amendola—AP

    After surging steadily through much of the spring, gas prices have dipped of late, hitting a national average of $2.77 for a gallon of regular at the start of the week, according to AAA. Drivers in nearly all states are paying at least 75¢ less per gallon compared with a year ago, and AAA estimates that cheap gas prices in 2015 have helped Americans collectively save $65 billion on fuel costs thus far this year.

  • Last-Minute Hotels

    Luxury Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip
    John Kellerman—Alamy The Las Vegas Strip

    Overall, hotel rates in the U.S. are expected to be up 5% to 6% in 2015, and in some cases are up more than 10%. But in certain cities and under specific circumstances, prices can be much cheaper compared with this time last year. Data from the last-minute hotel booking specialist HotelTonight indicates that some Fourth of July weekend rates booked right now are bargains compared with the 2014 holiday. Average rates in Las Vegas are 39% cheaper versus last year, and July 4 hotel prices are also down in destinations such as the Berkshires (down 29%), Tampa (20%), and Williamsburg, Va. (12%).

  • Other Pork Products

    sausages on grill
    Slawomir Purgal—Alamy

    The same rise in the nation’s pork supply that’s caused bacon prices to retreat is lowering prices for pork chops, hot dogs, and the like. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently estimated that the cost of a typical July 4 cookout that feeds 10 people is 3% cheaper than it was a year ago. One of the reasons why this is so is that two of the main dishes—hot dogs and pork spare ribs—are 2% to 4% less expensive than they were in 2014.

  • Airfare

    plane flying over field
    iStock

    At the start of the year, researchers from the likes of Expedia predicted that flight prices would fall in 2015, if for no other reason than airlines would finally have to lower fares in the face of dramatically cheaper fuel prices. And while airfare prices depend on a range of factors—route, timing, demand, etc.—data from the flight search Hopper.com show that overall, domestic flights in the spring and early summer were 8.7% cheaper compared with the same time last year. The site also predicted that the trend will continue through the summer, with the average flight selling for $18 (or about 6%) less than in the summer of 2014.

  • Dairy Products

    Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers, Denver, Colorado
    Brennan Linsley—AP

    The USDA reports that national stockpiles of butter, cheese, and milk are all up significantly compared with a year ago, and prices for most dairy products—including yogurt, ice cream, and blocks of cheese—are down as a result. Bear in mind that some of the price decrease is based on how expensive dairy products were for much of last year. Butter consumption, for instance, has been increasing for years, and prices spiked to near record prices last summer through the fall.

TIME portfolio

Documenting the Hard Life in Russia’s Frozen Arctic

“The Arctic is like a blank sheet on which you could see all the tensions of Russia played out."

The Soviet Union was known for its doublespeak, but when Moscow bureaucrats called the 7,000-km area of the Russian Arctic the “zone of absolute discomfort,” they were speaking the truth. Temperatures in the settlements of the far north, which spans from Alaska to Finland, can dip below –45°C in the winter. Living conditions are wretched, which is one reason Stalin used these towns as gulags. Descendants of some of the prisoners still live in these Arctic communities. Among the people who seem adapted to the conditions are the indigenous herders known as Nenets, who live in tents called chums.

Yet there are billions of tons of oil and natural gas locked beneath the permafrost—a fact that has drawn a new wave of workers to the Arctic, as the photographer Justin Jin documents. It’s not an easy place to work as a photographer—Jin once got frostbite from the cold metal of his camera pressed against his face—but the material is worth it. “The Arctic is like a blank sheet on which you could see all the tensions of Russia played out,” says Jin, who has worked in Russia for years. “You have the extreme expanse of space, the endless nature, the riches trapped in the tundra. It’s all the contradictions and juxtapositions of Russia.”

Justin Jin is a documentary photographer based in Belgium.

Bryan Walsh is TIME’s Foreign Editor.

MONEY Autos

The Case for Buying an Electric Car Is About to Get a Whole Lot Better

2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Luke Ray—Fuel Press Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle with more than 200 miles of range and a price tag around $30,000.

Drive 200+ miles on a single charge, without paying Tesla prices.

Electric car sales have stagnated through the first half of 2015. Sales have slumped for several reasons, including cheap gas prices and increased fuel efficiency among gas-powered automobiles.

In May, dramatic price cuts helped boost sales of models such as the Chevy Volt, and the month saw the most EV sales of 2015, according to InsideEVs. Still, the May 2015 EV sales total of 11,540 was 7% lower than May 2014. The Nissan Leaf, the overall electric-car category leader, has been struggling in particular. After failing to cross 2,000 unit sales in any month in 2015, the Leaf finally hit the mark in May. But through the first five months of the year, only 7,742 Nissan Leafs have been purchased, a decrease of more than 25% off last year’s pace.

Over the next few years, however, advances in electric car technology could very well turn skeptics into plug-in adopters.

While purchase prices have decreased, EVs remain impractical for many households for the time being. Presumably, a large portion of drivers is reluctant to go electric because of limited driving range. Unless you’re willing to pay $70,000 or more for the likes of a Tesla, you’ll be limited to driving 70 or 80 miles per charge with the Leaf and nearly every other reasonably priced purely battery-powered vehicle. That’s just not enough for drivers who want a car that’ll be worry-free on road trips, longer commutes, and long days full of running errands.

Soon, though, the so-called “range anxiety” factor could be reduced significantly. Earlier this year, GM introduced a concept called the Chevy Bolt, an all-electric vehicle that should appeal to the masses seeing as it’s expected to be both affordable (around $30,000) and practical (200 miles per charge).

Chevy hasn’t said when, exactly, the Bolt will be available for purchase, but it’s been widely reported that the likely date is sometime in 2017—probably late 2017. According to industry analysts cited by Automotive News, buyers could be behind the wheel of Bolts sooner than that. Production of the Bolt is expected to begin in October 2016, and sales would commence shortly thereafter.

By then, there could be even more compelling reasons to wait a little longer for what Nissan has in the works for the Leaf. Another Automotive News post notes that Nissan is working on a next-generation battery that would allow the Leaf a driving range of roughly 310 miles per charge. Such an impressive range won’t be available in the forthcoming 2017 Nissan Leaf, which should hit the market next year with an expected range of 105 to 120 miles.

What’s more, next year Tesla, which thus far has focused on the high-end market, is expected to introduce the Model 3, a mass-market vehicle rumored to have an impressive driving range and starting price ($35,000) that could come to dominate the field.

Overall, one or more of these new vehicles could be real game changers, with affordable prices and vastly improved driving ranges that’ll make the best arguments yet for switching to an EV.

Read next: Cheap Gas Helps Pull the Plug on Electric Cars

MONEY Autos

Honda’s Adorable Little SUV Is This Summer’s Hottest New Car

150616_EM_HondaHRV
Honda—Wieck 2016 Honda HR-V

Subcompact HR-V is selling like hotcakes

Honda’s brand new HR-V, a subcompact SUV that’s taller than the Honda Fit compact and smaller than big sister crossover CR-V, has only been available for purchase for a few weeks. But during the last two weeks of May—the model’s first two weeks on the market—an impressive 6,381 HR-Vs were sold.

That’s triple the amount that any other automaker has achieved with a new model in the tiny SUV category, Bloomberg reported, and Honda hit this sales mark without even launching an advertising campaign for the vehicle. Honda sees the HR-V, which starts under $20,000 and gets 35 mpg on the highway, as the perfect vehicle for a broad swath of consumers, no matter if gas prices rise, fall, or stay flat.

“This is a small crossover that people will look at as the ultimate hedge against everything,” John Mendel, executive vice president of Honda’s U.S. sales unit, told Bloomberg. “I think, personally, the car is going to be a home run, but we’ll bear that out over some time.”

Before the HR-V arrived at Honda dealers, some analysts expressed concern that the new model would simply tempt customers away from purchasing the larger, pricier CR-V, which has a sticker price starting roughly $4,000 higher. According to Honda, however, one-third of HR-V buyers haven’t been Honda customers in the past, and CR-V sales have remained strong even with its smaller, cheaper sibling on the market.

“[We’ve been asked]: Was this going to cannibalize it? Well, we sold exactly what we did with CR-V last year, which was well over 30,000 units, so no cannibalization there,” Honda’s Mendel explained to Wards Auto.

TIME natural disaster

Thousands Evacuated in Indonesia After Volcano Starts Spewing Ash and Toxic Gas

More people expected to flee in the coming days

Thousands of people living in the vicinity of a volcano on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra have been evacuated from their homes after it began erupting.

Mount Sinabung started to flare up over the weekend, sending hot ash and gas — known as pyroclastic flows — gushing down its slopes, reports the BBC. No injuries have been reported.

Authorities raised the alert level on June 2 after detecting a sharp increase in activity at Sinabung. In the past month, at least 3,000 villagers, including 1,200 on Monday, have been ordered from their homes and officials expect thousands more people will need to be evacuated in the coming days.

The volcano had been dormant for more than four centuries but roused back to life in 2010 and has been highly active since. In February 2014, at least 14 people were killed as pyroclastic flows engulfed nearby villages.

[BBC]

MONEY Gas

Gas Prices Could Reach 2009 Lows

This summer, gas prices may be the lowest they've been since 2009, but it's not all good news.

According to a report from AAA, gas prices could hit the lowest price per gallon they’ve hit in six years. The national average is $2.75 right now, which is higher than it was earlier this year. But stabilizing crude oil costs and refinery maintenance are expected to bring the prices back down. Some places won’t see the low prices, like California’s north-of-$3 average.

MONEY Gas

Gas Prices Have Probably Peaked for the Year

150601_EM_GasPrices
Win McNamee—Getty Images Heavy Memorial Day traffic moves southbound and northbound along I-95 May 22, 2015 in Quantico, Virginia.

A price break is arriving in time for summer.

Unless you live in California, where gas prices have remained stubbornly high compared with the rest of the country, you probably aren’t agitated by how expensive it is to fill up the tank. That’s because, at least relatively speaking, it isn’t expensive. A gallon of regular gasoline is currently averaging $2.75 nationwide, about 90¢ cheaper than it was a year ago at this time.

Still, prices have increased for much of 2015—again, especially in California and the West Coast—with prices rising an average of 71¢ nationally since January. Prices inched up nearly every day in May.

According to AAA, however, this upward trend in gas prices has just about reached the end of the road. “There is a good chance that average U.S. gas prices will drop soon due to stabilizing crude oil costs and as refineries complete seasonal maintenance, which would result in the cheapest summertime gas prices since 2009,” a release from AAA states. “Gas prices often drop or remain flat in June as refineries complete seasonal maintenance and gear up production for the busy summer driving season. Gas prices have declined by an average of 12 cents per gallon in June over the past five years. This production trend likely will continue this year, which means gasoline supplies could soon grow even more plentiful.”

The forecast from AAA jibes with the longer-term report released last week by OPEC, which indicates that gas prices will remain low at least until around 2017.

If AAA’s analysis holds up, gas prices may have already hit their high for all of 2015, and gas prices for the Fourth of July holiday and prime summer road trip season will be even cheaper than Memorial Day 2015—which was the cheapest Memorial Day weekend for gas since 2009.

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