Prices at the gas pump continued their upward climb, although double digit weekly spikes have eased. Gas prices have climbed every day for the past 29 days, climbing 7 cents this week to a national average of $3.64 per gallon on Friday.
In the past month, prices have jumped 35 cents and since February 1 prices have increased 18 cents. The national average price remains 12 cents above year ago prices, making prices the most expensive ever for this time of year.
It comes at a bad time for consumers. Many have just taken a big hit in their take-home pay, thanks to the end of the payroll tax holiday. Many are also facing high home heating bills during a winter that's delivered some pretty severe weather. And many others are worried about what looming government budget cuts may mean to their jobs and the economy.
When will it end?
Well, believe it or not, the federal government says it should end sometime this year. In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) report, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says it expects that falling crude prices will contribute to a decline in the national annual average regular gasoline retail price from $3.63 per gallon in 2012 to $3.55 per gallon in 2013 and $3.39 per gallon in 2014.
But while that's a long-term decrease, it's still about 11 cents per gallon and 4 cents per gallon higher than the EIA forecast last month. In other words, prices may start falling one of these days but they may not fall as much as had been expected.
Crude oil prices are the biggest factor in determining gas prices, since crude oil makes up nearly 70 percent of a gallon of gasoline. They have continued to hover in the $95 to $97 per barrel price range over the last week.
In addition to the price of crude oil, gas prices have also been affected by seasonal maintenance work at refineries, temporarily reducing gas supplies, and financial market speculation, where investors believe demand for oil will rise which further inflates prices.
National AAA average prices
|Week Ago Avg.||$3.587||$3.748||$3.898||$4.048||$3.230||$4.251|
|Month Ago Avg.||$3.301||$3.453||$3.612||$3.896||$3.032||$3.991|
|Year Ago Avg.||$3.556||$3.686||$3.821||$3.950||$3.119||$4.105|
|Highest Recorded Average Price:|