It’s getting more painful at the pump and more sticker shock is likely in the coming days and weeks.
The average retail price for regular unleaded gasoline hit a record high of $2.109 a gallon, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday, up 5.3 cents over the last week and up 37 cents from a year ago. The previous record price was $2.064 a gallon set last May.
If that isn’t bad enough for motorists, the Energy Department’s analytical arm said the pump price will climb above $2.15 a gallon later this spring. That’s still a long way shy of the most expensive gasoline when adjusted for inflation -- $3.08 a gallon recorded in March 1981.
President Bush said Monday he was concerned that consumers are “paying more at the pump,” but offered no short-solutions to bring down gasoline costs.
Truckers also found no relief, with the price for diesel fuel increasing 5 cents to a record $2.24 a gallon, up 60 cents from a year ago, the EIA said.
Truckers on the West Coast paid the most for diesel fuel at $2.47 a gallon, up 2.9 cents from last week. The Gulf Coast states had the cheapest diesel at $2.18 a gallon, up a nickel.
Diesel and gasoline prices are up because of rising crude oil costs, which reached almost $58 a barrel last week and account for about half what consumers pay at the pump.
Only way is up
The EIA report Monday follows hot on the heels of the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations released Sunday. That survey said gas prices were likely to continue to rise in the next few weeks on strong demand and supply problems caused by the transition to cleaner-burning gasoline mixtures as summer approaches.
According to Lundberg, the average retail price for all three grades increased 12.74 cents to $2.13 per gallon between March 4 and March 18. The most popular grade — self-serve regular — was priced at $2.10 a gallon, while customers paid $2.20 for mid-grade. Premium averaged $2.29 a gallon for the period.
Prices reflect sharp hikes in the cost of crude oil in recent weeks, Lundberg said. “I do not think this is the end of the crude oil price jump,” she said. “Even if crude oil prices don’t rise further, it’s very likely gasoline prices will continue to rise, at least short term.”
Seasonal changes in the formula used to produce cleaner gas mixtures and building demand also will contribute to higher prices in the weeks ahead, she said.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed last week to boost its output quota by 500,000 barrels a day, or 1.9 percent. Members are already producing above their quotas.
OPEC’s next meeting is June 7.
The lowest gas price in the nation among stations surveyed by Lundberg over the past two weeks was $1.91 for regular unleaded in Newark, N.J. The highest price was $2.34 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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