Gas prices hit record high

/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. average retail gasoline prices rose over the last two weeks and they could go even higher, according to an industry analyst.

The national average for self-serve regular unleaded gas rose 3.34 cents to $1.7716 a gallon in the two weeks ended March 26, according to the nationwide Lundberg survey of 8,000 gas stations.

The price has risen 29 cents per gallon since Dec. 19. But the current price is just four cents above what it was one year ago, according to the survey released Sunday.

The least likely outcome in the short term is a significant drop in gas prices, as demand is on the rise, said survey editor Trilby Lundberg.

She said economic growth was fueling world crude oil and U.S. gasoline demand.

“Gasoline market conditions are very similar to what they were last March, with high crude oil prices and tight U.S. gasoline supplies,” Lundberg said.

“But this year refiners’ work to prepare for maximizing output during spring and summer, when we need the most gasoline, must be even more extensive and costly due to new environmental protection regulations that hit that sector Jan. 1,” she added.

The meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Wednesday in Vienna to review the world oil market will be closely watched by traders, Lundberg said.

The cartel agreed in February to cut some 1 million barrels per day (bpd) from its official output ceiling beginning April 1.

“There is reason to doubt that the full cut, if any, will actually take place,” Lundberg said.