In this Feb. 16, 2012 photo, a customer fills up at an Irving Oil gas station, in Berlin, Vt. Gasoline prices have never been higher at this time of year. At $3.51 a gallon, gas is up 23 percent since Jan. 1. And experts say motorists could pay a record $4.25 a gallon by late April. (AP Photo)Gee, that Obama's ban on domestic drilling... could it have anything to do with it?
NEW YORK (AP) — Gasoline prices have never been higher this time of the year.
At $3.53 a gallon, prices are already up 25 cents since Jan. 1. And experts say they could reach a record $4.25 a gallon by late April.
"You're going to see a lot more staycations this year," says Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. "When the price gets anywhere near $4, you really see people react."
Already, W. Howard Coudle, a retired machinist from Crestwood, Mo., has seen his monthly gasoline bill rise to $80 from about $60 in December. The closest service station is selling regular for $3.39 per gallon, the highest he's ever seen.
"I guess we're going to have to drive less, consolidate all our errands into one trip," Coudle says. "It's just oppressive." [...]
High oil and gas prices now set the stage for even sharper increases at the pump because gas typically rises in March and April. [...]
The Oil Price Information Service predicts that gasoline could peak at $4.25 a gallon by the end of April. That would top the record of $4.11 in July 2008.
The national average for gasoline began the year at $3.28 a gallon. The average price for February so far is $3.49 a gallon. That's up from $3.17 a gallon last February, a record at the time. Back in 2007, before the recession hit, the average for February was $2.25 a gallon.
Prices are higher on the East and West Coasts, where gasoline has risen above $3.70 in Connecticut, New York, Washington D.C. and California. This isn't unusual — states on the coasts charge some of the nation's highest gas taxes.
High gas prices put a strain on many people's budgets.
Americans spent 8.4 percent of their household income on gasoline last year when gas averaged an all-time high of $3.51 a gallon. That's double the percentage a decade ago. They could pay even more this year, even though demand is the lowest in 11 years as people drive fewer miles in more efficient cars, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at OPIS.