One state left with gasoline below $3

Prices break record for 10th day in a row, topping $3.20 a gallon; New Jersey only state left with an average price under $3.


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Gasoline prices broke a record Tuesday for the 10th day in a row as every state except for New Jersey now has an average price above the $3 a gallon mark in AAA's daily survey.

The latest reading from the motorist group Tuesday showed the nationwide average for a gallon of regular unleaded hit $3.209 a gallon, up from $3.196 on Monday. The group's survey of 85,000 gas stations, by far the broadest sampling of gas prices, has been showing a series of record high prices starting May 13.

Two different surveys found record-high pump prices once again.
Two different surveys found record-high pump prices once again.

In Tuesday's reading, New Hampshire and South Carolina joined most of the rest of the nation above the $3 a gallon benchmark for the first time.

New Hampshire's average price crept up to $3.005, up from $2.99 Monday, while South Carolina rose to $3.007 from $2.991.

New Jersey, with an average price of $2.947, is also creeping toward that threshold, as it rose almost a penny from $2.938 on Monday. Ironically, New Jersey is one of only two states - along with Oregon - where the law mandates full service at every pump.

Illinois moved ahead of California for the dubious distinction of the state with the most expensive average price, as the price reading there rose to $3.481 from $3.457, while California's average price slipped slightly to $3.449 from $3.454 on Monday. South Dakota saw the biggest jump in prices, rising 3.5 cents to an average of $3.38 a gallon.

Even California's modest decline of a half a cent was rare when looking at the full range of state averages, as it was joined by Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington as the only states showing declines. Motorists there will probably be hard-pressed to notice any relief as the average price fell by less than a penny in each of those states.

The AAA national average now shows prices up 3.9 percent over the course of the last week, along with an increase of 12.4 percent over the last month.

And higher prices could be on the way as Americans get ready to hit the road for the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the start of the summer driving season.

AAA warned in congressional testimony last week it believes prices will approach $3.25 a gallon over the next 60 days.

Even with the record gas prices, AAA is predicting a record number of Americans will be hitting the road during the holiday weekend, with 38.3 million expected to be traveling 100 miles or more, up 1.7 percent from a year ago. And most of those - 32.1 million - will be driving, according to the motorist group.

Worse than '81 oil spike

Other gas price readings released this week show gasoline prices have soared to levels never seen before as even the inflation-adjusted price for a gallon of unleaded topped the 1981 record spike in price that had stood for 26 years.

The Lundberg Survey, a bi-weekly gas price tracking service, put the price of a gallon of unleaded at $3.18 in its latest reading released late Sunday, up more than 11 cents from its reading of two weeks ago.

While gasoline had already been in record territory in current dollars, Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the survey, said this is the first time that her survey topped her 1981 record high when adjusted for inflation.

The high price of $1.35 in 1981 works out to $3.15 in current dollars, she said. The Iran-Iraq war, which started the year before, choked off oil supplies to the global market, causing that spike in prices.

The Energy Information Administration's latest pump price, when adjusted for inflation, also reached a new peak. The unit of the U.S. Energy Department said Monday the average price for regular unleaded gasoline soared 11.5 cents over the past week to a fresh record of $3.22 a gallon, the all-time high fuel cost reached in March 1981 when adjusted for inflation.

The EIA survey covers about 800 service stations nationwide while the Lundberg survey includes 7,000 stations.

The AAA daily survey, conducted by the Oil Price Information Service research firm, does not go back to the 1981 spike.

Topping post-Katrina records

Before this recent run of record-high gas prices, the highest price ever recorded in current dollars was $3.057 in the AAA survey, which 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, sending prices above the $3 mark for eight days.

The only other time that the AAA national average has topped the $3 mark was in August 2006, after Israel invaded Lebanon and oil futures shot higher. Gas prices then reached as high as $3.036 during that 19-day spike.

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 been climbing since. Unless prices fall suddenly, Wednesday will mark the longest stretch of $3 gas on the AAA survey's history.

While crude oil prices have fallen over the last few weeks and oil supplies are high in the United States, problems at several refineries have crimped gasoline output ahead of the summer driving season.

The refinery problems include fires, power outages, and longer-than-usual maintenance periods. Top of page

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.