BLOOMINGTON - Next to gasoline, diesel fuel looks like a bargain.
For the past two years, diesel sold significantly higher than regular unleaded, but that trend has been reversed this spring.
"It's not necessarily that diesel has dropped. It's that gasoline has just spiked so much," said Doug MacIntyre, a senior analyst with the federal Energy Information Administration in Washington D.C.
On Thursday, diesel sold for as low as $2.79 per gallon in the Twin Cities, more than 30 cents cheaper than regu-lar unleaded gasoline.
With diesel prices seemingly more stable than gas, automakers are trying to sell more diesel vehicles in the U.S., said Joe Barker, an analyst with Michigan-based CSM Worldwide.
"Diesel vehicles still are not resonating well among the masses in the U.S.," he said. "There is a stigma attached to diesels. The general perception among car buyers is that diesels are loud and you get a lot of exhaust fumes. They remember the diesels of yesteryear. The diesels of today are far more sophisticated."
But they're not cheap, Barker added. A diesel vehicle, which has better fuel economy, costs about $2,000 more than a gas-powered car of the same make, he said.
"It's not a strong value proposition right now," Barker said.
And maybe the fuel itself isn't such a bargain anyway. George Billows, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, laughed at the idea, saying truckers are paying twice as much as they did a few years ago.
"The average truck driver is using about 400 gallons a week … or about 2,000 gallons a month for one person. You're looking at $6,000 just for gas," he said.
Large companies, he said, are spending hundreds of thousands each month and passing on charges through fuel surcharge that boost delivery fees as much as 20 percent.
As a result, the cost of common household goods, business materials and everything else often rises along with diesel prices. The world's freight industry runs on diesel - semis, trains, barges, ships and others - as do the farming and construction industries.
Until the last couple years, diesel prices were historically lower than gas, according to EIA figures, but that changed as global demand increased and refiners transitioned to low-sulfur diesel.
That trend seems to be reversing, however, as diesel supplies are high - for now, MacIntyre said.
"The market for diesel fuel globally is tight and will remain tight," he said.