Nightly News   |  July 15, 2013

Summer drives up gas prices

A decline in crude inventories, combined with production glitches at a few U.S. refineries, is pushing up gas prices during the summer months when demand for gas is higher. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> hitting the road, the peak of summer vacation season. if you're among them, you have seen what we are paying for gas. aaa says the average price for gallon of regular now 3.61. that's up 14 cents from one week ago and it goes up from there. we asked nbc's tom cost tell throw look at what's driving it this time. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. in fact, july and august are typically the peak months for summer driving, as americans pack up for the summer vacation . we are told that is at least one reason why gas prices are moving higher. summer in los angeles and mike's three ice cream trucks are on the move, but keeping them fueled up costs him $300 a day. nine years ago, it cost half that.

>> it affects my bottom line, because at the end of the day you it's what you take home.

>> reporter: california has some of the highest gas prices in the lower 48, averaging 4.01 a gallon. in the midwest, it's illinois and chicago where the city averages 4.06 a gallon. the cabbies know --

>> to make a dollar, i have to come up with 75. and nobody has got into my cab, you know?

>> i have to have gas in order to go to work. so it affects my life greatly.

>> reporter: why the sudden surge? analysts say you can blame a lot of it on the summer driving season.

>> ? an old-fashioned case of supply and demand . americans requiring more regular gasoline, refineries producing it, resulting in a decline in crude inventories.

>> reporter: there's also concern the unrest in egypt could spread and disrupt the flow of oil through the suez canal . there and have been production hiccups at a few u.s. refineries, helping to push prices even higher. add it all up, an extra 14 cents per gallon in a week, 22 cents in a year and 800-mile round trip in the family van from chicago to minneapolis will likely cost about $178 in fuel. looking for the cheapest gas? has that. you type in your location and the stations with the lowest gas pop up. here in washington, it ranges from 3.59 a gallon to 4.79. some consumer advocates are skeptical with the oil industry 's explanation that prices are driven by the markets and not manipulated seasonally by the oil companies themselves. meanwhile, back in los angeles --

>> if the prices keep going up, guys like me will go out of business.

>> reporter: ice cream man is thinking of parking in a fix load cation, giving up on chasing oil price . some analysts we talked to say we may see another ten-cent increase for the gas pump but may be the top for the summer. the big variable continues to be the weather. a hurricane could send prices even higher. brian?

>> tom costello, suburban washington for