Increase in gas prices is expected this summer

Good economic outlook might encourage more traveling

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Welcome economic news might translate to higher gasoline prices in time for the summer travel season.

"Our forecasts show that we very well may see $3 per gallon gasoline, and maybe even as high as $3.10, sometime this summer," said Jessica Brady of the AAA Auto Club South that serves the Georgia and Florida regions. "But we also hope it will be very short-lived."

Gas prices are already substantially higher than a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which this week reported a national average price of $2.751 cents per gallon of regular fuel. In mid-March 2009, the national average was $1.91.

Brady said the gradual climb in pump prices -- and the forecast that the spike might continue -- is linked to investor confidence in economic indicators that have been decidedly positive in recent weeks.

"Fuel consumption was up 3 percent year-over-year last month," she said. "In another report that came out last week, from the Labor Department, the unemployment rate did not rise as expected."

When the economy looks good, investors become more confident that people will travel more -- and fuel demand will increase. More demand, she added, can create higher prices.

Rising per-barrel prices for crude oil is another indicator of future pump prices.

"Last week, we noticed gasoline prices had remained more stable, but when crude closed higher last Friday, retail prices moved up in just a few days," she said.

Friday's closing was $81.50 per barrel, compared to $79.66 the previous week, and $78.19 the week before that. "We've seen, over three weeks, a steady increase in crude oil."

The Energy Information Administration's long-term outlook also calls for $3 per gallon gasoline later this year.

"EIA forecasts that the annual average regular grade retail gasoline price will increase from $2.35 per gallon in 2009 to $2.84 in 2010 and to $2.96 in 2011 because of the projected rising crude oil prices," said the group's newest forecast, posted Tuesday. "Average U.S. pump prices likely will exceed $3 per gallon at times during the forthcoming spring and summer driving season. Projected annual average retail diesel fuel prices are $2.96 and $3.14 per gallon, respectively, in 2010 and 2011."

Although prices are rising, Georgia still enjoys one the nation's lowest average gas prices, and Augusta historically has some of the lowest prices in Georgia.

"Georgia, when compared to Florida and a lot of other areas of the country, has lower prices than most," Brady said, noting that the state average for a gallon of regular is $2.69, compared to $2.82 in Florida.

Augusta's per-gallon average of $2.66, she added, is much lower than the state average.

Charting gas prices

U.S. Energy Information Administration's online chart showing gas prices from 1993 to 2010:

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Fish Out of Water
Fish Out of Water 03/11/10 - 02:08 pm
Stay tuned. The conspiracy

Stay tuned. The conspiracy theorists should be emerging from the shadows any minute now...

justthefacts 03/11/10 - 02:19 pm
LOL Fish, maybe there was a

LOL Fish, maybe there was a double secret mtg held between Biden and the oil company executives.

MadSnapper 03/11/10 - 02:26 pm
Obama and his Big Oil Buddies

Obama and his Big Oil Buddies at it again! I would love to hear from the woman who said she wouldn't have to worry about "paying her mortgage or putting gas in her car" if Obama was elected.

overburdened_taxpayer 03/11/10 - 05:58 pm
Seems to me the prices are

Seems to me the prices are staying higher since Obama took office than when Bush was in office.

Ayetidiosi 03/11/10 - 06:06 pm
Hey y'all, I've been

Hey y'all, I've been developing my "Reverse Kanye" impersonation, and I want your honest opinion on it. Are you ready?

"Barack Obama hates white people!"

what do y'all think? spot on or what?

Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 03/11/10 - 08:58 pm
Oil/gasoline prices are one

Oil/gasoline prices are one of the easiest commodities to manipulate, because the consumption estimates are just that, estimates, and the surplus stocks of oil are raised or lowered based on those, in reality, there are no clear cut indicators for the rise and fall of prices. One way to gauge this is when you can see in the paper the price of a barrel of crude has jumped, and then you see an IMMEDIATE jump at the gas pumps. Now, when you see a decrease in the price of crude, do you EVER see an immediate decrease in the price at the pump? No. Our government..or better yet, our own consumer demand, must push manufacturers to come out with alternate methods for automotive fuels. The oil nations have us by the cahonies and they know it.

johnston.cliff 03/11/10 - 11:00 pm
Ayeti, great reverse

Ayeti, great reverse impersonation. Luckily, Obama gives you enough ammunition to run with it as long as you'd like.

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