Gas at record prices

The cost of filling the family car climbed to a record high Tuesday. Gas prices at the pump rose overnight to a record national average of $3.2272 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, just higher than the previous record of $3.2265, set last May.


MORE BAD NEWS: Soaring gas prices worsen the financial plight of consumers already suffering through a downturn in the housing market that has sharply reduced home prices in many markets and limited Americans' ability to tap home equity for spending. Food prices are also on the rise, partly because of rising fuel costs.

WHAT'S DRIVING IT: A year ago, rising demand and refinery outages raised concerns about supplies. Now the record price of crude oil is the culprit, propelling gas higher although supplies are at 15-year highs.

CHEAPER HERE: The average price of gasoline in the Augusta-Aiken area Tuesday was $3.08 per unleaded gallon, with some prices as high as $3.19, said Judy Reville, AAA Augusta division manager. A month ago, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas was $2.82.

brace yourself: Prices will likely increase to $3.75 by the time the summer travel season begins, Mrs. Reville said. The Energy Department on Tuesday raised its forecast of how high prices will increase this spring by a dime, to $3.50 a gallon.

WHAT'S NEXT: Where gas and oil go is anybody's guess. Many analysts expect prices to moderate, while others predict oil could keep rising, to $120 a barrel or higher. That would be about $10 a barrel more than Tuesday's new trading record of $109.72 for light, sweet crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

DON'T LOOK TO WASHINGTON: Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday that the White House is concerned about the impact on consumers and businesses, but "It would be wrong of the president to provide false hope to people to think that we are going to be able to have an immediate impact to reduce gas prices. This is something that we're all going to have to work through."

-- From staff and wire reports