The cost of crude oil is determined by global supply and demand, and economic growth is a major factor that affects petroleum products and, consequently, the demand for crude oil. A growing economy means an increased need for energy, particularly for transporting goods from producers to consumers. The global transport sector is almost completely dependent on petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel. Many countries also rely heavily on petroleum-based fuels to heat, cook or generate electricity.
Products derived from crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons account for around one third of the world's total energy consumption. More than half of the cost of filling up a tank is influenced by the price of crude oil, while the rest of the price at gas stations is divided between refining costs, marketing and distribution expenses, and taxes. Oil must be refined into gasoline before it can be used by consumers, so refining costs are included in the price of gas. Retail gas prices are mainly affected by the prices of crude oil and the amount of gasoline available to meet demand. The strong and growing demand for gasoline and other petroleum products in the United States and around the world can put intense pressure on available supplies.
Gasoline prices tend to increase when the supply of available gasoline decreases relative to actual or expected demand or consumption of gasoline. Gasoline prices can change rapidly if something disrupts crude oil supply, refinery operations, or pipeline deliveries. Even when crude oil prices remain stable, gasoline prices fluctuate due to seasonal changes in demand and gasoline specifications. Gas prices vary over time and between states and regions. In addition to differences in state and local taxes, other factors contribute to regional differences in gas prices, such as distance from supply, supply interruptions and retail competition, and operating costs. The Energy Information Management (EIA) defines excess capacity as the volume of oil production that can be put into operation within 30 days and maintained for at least 90 days.
OPEC's surplus capacity is an indicator of the ability of the global oil market to respond to real and potential disruptions in global oil supply. Regular-grade retail gas in August was approximately 39 cents per gallon higher than the January average price. The country's largest refinery, owned by Saudi Aramco, processes around 607,000 barrels of oil per day. The significant changes in world oil prices over the past decade demonstrate how all these factors can influence oil prices and show how difficult it is to predict them. Alternatively, if consumers need to buy crude oil in the future, they can guarantee the price they will pay at a future date by purchasing a futures contract.
Other events such as refinery disruptions or pipeline problems can also restrict the flow of crude oil and petroleum products to the market. In addition to oil producers and consumers, market participants or speculators who do not produce or consume crude oil also buy and sell futures contracts. Once supply disruption subsides, oil and product supply chains adjust and prices often return to their previous levels. If oil producers want to sell oil in the future, they can set their desired price by selling a futures contract today. Stocks are a cushion between major short-term supply and demand imbalances, and stock levels can have a significant impact on gas prices.
Crude oil is also sold in cash transactions for prompt delivery at the current market price. Many factors affect gas prices including the cost of crude oil, refinery cost and profits, cost of distribution, marketing costs, and profits. OPEC tries to manage the oil production of its member countries by setting crude oil production targets or quotas for its members. Some areas of the country are required to use special reformulated gasoline that includes additives to help reduce carbon monoxide, smog and toxic air pollutants that are produced by evaporating and burning gasoline.