Tuesday, May 22, 2007 NEW YORK –- Gasoline prices have risen to levels never seen before at the pump as even the inflation-adjusted price for a gallon of unleaded topped the 1981 record price that had stood for 26 years.
And experts warn that higher prices could be coming as Americans prepare to hit the road for the Memorial Day holiday and the start of the summer driving season.
The Lundberg Survey, a bi-weekly gas price tracking service, showed the price of a gallon of unleaded at $3.18 in its latest reading released on Sunday. That's up more than 11-cents from its reading of two weeks ago.
The Energy Information Administration's latest pump price, when adjusted for inflation, also reached a new record high. The EIA said yesterday that the average price for regular unleaded gas soared 11.5 cents over the past week to a new record of $3.22 a gallon. That's the same all-time high fuel cost reached in March 1981.Confirming those findings, the motorist group AAA said its daily survey of up to 85,000 gas stations nationwide has been showing a series of record high prices in current dollars since May 13, and Monday the average price for a gallon of self-serve unleaded hit $3.196. The AAA said that's the ninth straight record high and up from Sunday's record of $3.178
Before this recent run of record-high gas prices, the highest price ever recorded in current dollars was $3.057 in the AAA survey, and that was set Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. That storm disrupted refinery operations and pipelines and caused a temporary spike in prices above the $3 mark for eight days.
Experts agree the current price increases are due to problems in gasoline supplies and refinery output. The average gas price went above $3 a gallon on May 4 and has continued to climb since.
The AAA said that unless prices fall suddenly, Wednesday will mark the longest stretch of $3 gas in its survey's history.
Nationwide, few states showed an average gas price below $3. California had the highest average price, with a gallon of self-serve unleaded coasting $3.457, up a bit from Sunday's $3.453.
New Jersey continued to have the least expensive gas price — the average price on Monday was $2.938 a gallon.
Four more states — Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — became the latest states to cross the $3 a gallon mark.