January’s monthly average was $3.37 – 28 cents more than in 2011 and 66 cents more than in 2010.
“February’s pump prices aren’t looking any better than January,” said Jessica Brady, a AAA spokeswoman.
The national average is expected to surpass $3.50 this week.
Brady attributed the rise in prices to the closing of refineries in the Northeast, Texas and Louisiana.
Typically, refineries begin a switch in production around March that changes winter fuel blends to summer blends and jump-starts the upward trend in summer prices.
“As we get closer to March, more and more refineries will start to shut down for annual maintenance and to swap fuel blends. We very well could see prices rise throughout the month of February, especially if U.S. payrolls continue to increase and more positive economic news hits the market,” Brady said.
The price of oil fell last week after the Department of Energy reported that U.S. stockpiles rose to a 13-week high of 339 million barrels. Meanwhile, consumption fell to 17.7 million barrels a day.
Experts say the numbers reflect the lowest demand since May 1999.
For the fourth week in a row, the price per barrel traded for under $100.