Asphalt, the black, sticky substance used to pave roads, is mostly composed of bitimen, a refined product derived from crude oil. The price of asphalt is therefore closely linked to the price of crude oil.
Crude oil has few uses in its natural state. After extraction, oil is processed in refineries, where is it heated and separated into different fuels and derivatives, including the viscous product bitumen. The price of all refined fuels correlate closely with their fuel stock, as does asphalt.
The relationship between the price of crude and asphalt correlates, but not in direct proportion. According to the Post Carbon Institute, while the price of crude rose only 5 per cent in one period, the price of asphalt almost doubled. This is because refiners shifted their processes to manufacture higher-value fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, leaving bitumen in short supply.
According to the Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pennsylvania, which has a large asphalt industry, when the price of crude oil reached a record high during the summer of 2008, the price of asphalt, too, reached a high, pushing past £520 a ton. By comparison, in 2010, it had dropped to little more than £260 per ton.