Oil prices rise. US costs, OPEC sales hit records
Oil prices: Americans will spend more than $448 billion on gasoline this year. Rise in oil prices also means more than $1 trillion for OPEC.
American drivers this week broke a record that will bring them no joy.
They collectively spent more than $448 billion on gasoline since the beginning of the year, according to the OilÂ PriceÂ Information Service, putting the previous record for gas expenditures â€” set in 2008 â€” in the rearview mirror with weeks of driving still to go.
It's also a huge jump over last year, when U.S. drivers spent more than $100 billion less on gas.
The major reason for the record-setting gas spending in 2011 was thatÂ oilÂ pricesÂ were consistently high all year. And that probably brought joy at the other end of the pipeline. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is on pace to top $1 trillion in netÂ oilÂ exports for the first time, or 29 percent more than last year.
Next week, OPEC convenes to discuss production levels. Analysts held out little hope that the group, which pumps 40 percent of the world'sÂ oil, would raise output to lowerÂ pricesÂ and boost the economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe.
"They won't do anything," said Fadel Gheit, seniorÂ oilÂ analyst at Oppenheimer and Co. "They can lay the blame on the banking sectors and debt, and they are happy to keep providingÂ oilÂ at what are recordÂ pricesÂ for this time of the year."
On Friday, crudeÂ oilÂ for January delivery gained $1.07 to close at $99.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. NYMEXÂ oilÂ pricesÂ are up 8.8 percent so far for the year.
At the pump, gasolineÂ pricesÂ hit a record for this time of year. On Friday, averageÂ priceÂ of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.293, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. That's 28.5 cents a gallon higher than the record for a Dec. 9, set in 2007. It was 31.8 cents higher than last year.
Burbank, Calif., resident Dan Bell, 38, said he recently turned down a higher-paying job because he would have had to spend too much on gasoline to get there.
"I just hate the fact that OPEC is making that much money," Bell said. "There's not much we can do. We still have to go to work."
According to the Energy Department, the demand for vehicle fuel has been about 4 percent lower this year than in 2010. And domestic production ofÂ oilÂ is on the rise.
But increasing amounts ofÂ oilÂ produced in the U.S. are going to other countries. For the past three weeks, U.S. refineries have had a record high level of fuel exports, averaging about 2,984,000 barrels a day to markets overseas, the Energy Department said.
That was more than 600,000 barrels a day higher than last year and more than twice as much as was exported in 2008.