Transportation Energy Prices

Transportation Energy Prices

Transportation fuel prices (in chained 2000 dollars1) experienced short-term flucuations between 1993 and 2003 (figure 15-4). For instance, the average price of motor fuel (all types of gasoline) decreased 14 percent in 1998, to $1.16 per gallon from $1.35 per gallon in 1997. Gasoline prices then jumped 34 percent, to $1.56 per gallon in 2000, dipped in 2001 and 2002, and rose again in 2003 to $1.55.

Other fuels, such as aviation fuels and diesel used by railroads, underwent similar price fluctuations. Fuel prices decreased slightly in 2001 and again in 2002 but then rose in 2003. The average diesel price increased 22 percent between 2002 and 2003, slightly more than the price of jet fuel at 19 percent. Among transportation fuels, the average motor gasoline price grew the least (12 percent) between 2002 and 2003.

Transportation fuel prices are correlated with the world price of crude oil, because crude oil represents a large percentage of the final price of transportation fuel. This correlation can be seen in the price trends from 1993 to 2003 for crude oil and various transportation fuels. However, average crude oil prices started to rise in 2002 (4 percent over 2001), while fuel prices were still dropping, and increased again in 2003 (16 percent).

While prices of transportation fuels fluctuate over time, domestic travel does not appear to be affected. For instance, between 1993 and 2002,2 highway vehicle-miles of travel per capita rose at an annual average rate of 1.1 percent or 12 percent over the entire period (figure 15-5). During the same time, aircraft-miles of travel per capita for large carriers increased 2.0 percent on an annual average basis or 22 percent overall (figure 15-6).

Transportation fuel prices can affect overall consumer transportation prices. As measured by the Consumer Price Index, between 1993 and 2003, motor fuel prices and transportation prices increased at about the same average annual rate (2.1 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively). This inflation rate for transportation was lower than average annual inflation for all goods and services (2.5 percent) [1]. In fact, transportation-related consumer prices increased less than all other major spending categories except apparel, which decreased 1.0 percent from 1993 to 2003.


1. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, available at, as of June 2004.

1 All dollar amounts are expressed in chained 2000 dollars, unless otherwise specified. Current dollar amounts (which are available in appendix B of this report) were adjusted to eliminate the effects of inflation over time.

2 At the time this report was prepared, data for vehicle-miles of travel and aircraft-miles of travel were only available through 2002.