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Gasoline prices continue to rise

Pump prices rose 20 cents since January; above $2 a gallon in three states.

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By Kenneth Musante, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Average gasoline prices rose 1.7 cents Friday, according to a daily survey of gas station credit card swipes.

The price of gas rose to a national average of $1.816 a gallon from $1.799 a day earlier, according to motorist group AAA. Prices were higher than the $1.667 a gallon reported a month ago, but lower than the $3.044 a gallon gas was selling for on the same day last year.

Gas prices have risen for the past three days, according to AAA data, and are nearly 20 cents higher than they were on Jan. 1.

Gas prices initially rose last year, following a resurgence in the price of crude oil, gas's main ingredient. But as concern about falling demand for oil sent crude prices down more than $6 a barrel this week, the drivers may be in for a decline in gas prices as well.

"The American consumer is still staying home," said Geoff Sundstrom, fuel price analyst at AAA.

"There's absolutely no reason why the price of gasoline should be as high as it is," he said.

Changes in the price of retail gasoline usually lag the price of crude, and gasoline demand is falling. Demand, which ticked up at the end of December, continued to fall last week, according to the Energy Department.

"Shop aggressively with your steering wheel," advised Sundstrom.

State prices: On Friday, gas was selling above $2 a gallon on average in three states: Alaska ($2.511), Hawaii ($2.336), and California ($2.047), according to AAA.

Gas was cheapest in Wyoming at $1.473 a gallon on average, and sold below $1.50 on average in just one other state: Montana ($1.489).

Out of the major U.S. cities, Anchorage, Alaska, continued to have the highest average gas prices, at $ 2.369 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, a service that lets motorists post and view local gas prices online. Denver had the lowest average, at $1.547.

Diesel: The price of diesel fuel, which is used in most trucks and commercial vehicles, declined 0.1 cent to an average of $2.432 on Friday.

Because of diesel's role in shipping and transport, diesel prices can also affect the prices of other goods.

Ethanol: The price of E85, an 85% ethanol blend made primarily from corn, rose 1.1 cents to an average of $1.595 a gallon in Friday's survey, according to AAA.

E85 can be used in place of regular gas in specially configured "flex-fuel" vehicles, but it is not readily available in some states.

The AAA figures are statewide averages based on credit card swipes at up to 100,000 service stations across the nation. GasBuddy prices are averages of local regular unleaded gasoline prices that about 700,000 volunteer gas prices spotters have posted online. Individual drivers may see lower fuel prices in different areas of each state. To top of page

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