Personal Finance > Autos

Gasoline jumps above $2 a gallon
Self-serve regular hits $2.017 nationwide, up nearly 8 cents, and is heading higher.
May 18, 2004: 6:16 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Don't look now, but $2 a gallon gas is here.

The average price for regular unleaded gasoline jumped to a record high $2.017 a gallon nationwide, the government reported, up 7.6 cents from the prior week and 52 cents from a year earlier.

Fuel prices are rising because of strong demand ahead of the summer driving season and rising crude oil prices, which account for nearly half the cost of gasoline.

While crude oil futures backed away Tuesday from the record high hit Monday at the New York Mercantile Exchange, the slide might only be temporary. The June contract fell to $40.73 a barrel around 1:20 p.m. ET, more than a dollar below the record $41.85 a barrel reached during Monday's session.

Are rising gas prices affecting your Memorial Day travel plans?

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The Energy Department has forecast that gasoline will peak at $2.03 a gallon in June, but indications are that the price may go higher.

While $2.017 is a record for gasoline, adjusted for inflation the price hit $2.99 a gallon in March 1981, according to the Energy Information Administration, the department's statistical arm, which surveys service stations weekly.

And while prices are rising, motorists aren't letting that get in the way of their Memorial Day travel plans, according to a AAA survey Tuesday. (For more on the survey results, click here).

Some cutbacks seen

Still, some consumers are starting to feel the pinch at the pump.

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With oil prices climbing, is it time for the Bush Administration to tap into the nation's emergency reserve? CNNfn's Allan Chernoff reports.

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Nearly a third of Americans are cutting back on vacation and travel plans for later in the year, and 27 percent are cutting back on eating out because of record high gas prices, a retail survey found Tuesday. (For more on that survey, click here).

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been criticized for not taking action to find consumers some relief at the pump.

Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry's campaign said Monday the administration's national energy plan, which was announced three years ago this week, has not reduced U.S. reliance on foreign oil or lowered gasoline prices.

"When it comes to crafting consumer-friendly energy policies, George Bush has been an abject failure," a Kerry spokesman said. "While gas prices skyrocket and consumers get pinched, oil companies are raking in record profits."

To check how rising gas prices are affecting Americans' travel plans, click on the graphic.

The Energy Department had no immediate comment on gasoline prices.

A group of Democratic senators planned to introduce a non-binding resolution Tuesday asking the White House to release up to 60 million barrels of crude from the nation's emergency oil stockpile to help lower gasoline prices. But the administration reiterated that it won't take such action unless there's a true supply emergency.

'Stick it to them'

An anonymous e-mail circulating on the Internet urged U.S. consumers to take out their anger against oil companies by skipping any fuel purchases Wednesday.

Pain at the pump
Unleaded regular tops $2 a gallon and is expected to head higher.
PriceWeek agoYear ago
U.S. average$2.017Up 7.6Up 51.9
East Coast$1.981Up 8.8Up 53.1
Midwest$2.003Up 9.2Up 52.8
Gulf Coast$1.885Up 6.7Up 51.6
Rocky Mountain$1.987Up 1.9 Up 48.0
West Coast$2.243Up 4.3Up 50.8
*Change from week ago and year ago in U.S. cents
Source: Energy Information Administration

"May 19th has been formally declared 'Stick it to them' day and the people of this nation should not buy a single drop of gasoline that day," the message reads.

The EIA's weekly report showed the retail price for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, sold in polluted metropolitan areas, rose 7.8 cents to $2.095 a gallon.

The West Coast had the most expensive regular unleaded gasoline, with the price up 4.3 cents to $2.243 a gallon. The city in which gas is most expensive is Los Angeles, where prices jumped 5.4 cents to $2.304.

The U.S. Gulf Coast had the cheapest fuel by region, with the price up 6.7 cents at $1.885 per gallon. Houston is the city with the most affordable gasoline at $1.847 a gallon, up 6.4 cents.

Gasoline prices
Energy Department

The weekly report also showed gasoline prices were up 9 cents to $2.251 in Seattle, up 13.5 cents to $2.149 in Chicago, up 10.2 cents to $2.038 in New York City, up 7.7 cents to $2.034 in Miami, and up 12.9 cents to $2.019 in Cleveland.

The EIA also said the average pump price for diesel fuel rose to $1.763 a gallon, up 1.8 cents from the prior week and 32 cents from a year earlier.  Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to this report

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