The Energy Information Administration forecasted higher oil and fuel prices in its monthly short-term energy outlook.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil will cost an average of $78.13 a barrel in 2010, up from the previous outlook for $72.42 a barrel, and up 26 percent from the expected 2009 average price of $62 a barrel, the agency said.
Gasoline prices are expected to average $2.81 a gallon in 2010, up from $2.36 per gallon this year. Diesel prices are expected to average $2.94 a gallon in 2010, up from $2.48 a gallon this year.
Oil prices are forecasted to rise to about $81 a barrel by December 2010, "assuming U.S. and world economic conditions continue to improve," wrote the EIA, the independent statistics and analytical unit of the Department of Energy. The economic growth in Asia has been stronger than expected, leading to an increase in expected oil consumption next year, the EIA said.
The EIA also said that residential heating oil prices will average $2.80 a gallon, compared to $2.63 per gallon in the previous winter.
The EIA also increased its forecasts for the fourth quarter 2009, as oil prices have jumped to around $80 a barrel in recent weeks, above earlier predictions. Oil is expected to average77.41 a barrel in the fourth quarter, while retail gasoline is expected to average $2.66 a gallon and diesel $2.79 a gallon.
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