Gas prices hit record for 4th day
AAA's average for a gallon of regular tops $3.10 for first time, the fourth daily record high in a row; more price rises seen.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Gasoline prices hit a record high for the fourth straight day Wednesday, according to AAA, and more records could be on the way.
The motorist group said the average price for a gallon of self-serve unleaded gasoline rose to $3.103 in its latest reading, which is based on a daily survey of purchases at up to 85,000 gas stations. That's up from Tuesday's record of $3.087 a gallon. Prices are now up 2.3 percent in just the last week and 8.6 percent over the last month.
Before Sunday's record, the highest price ever recorded in the survey was $3.057, which was set Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina disrupted refinery operations and pipelines and caused a spike in prices. But on Sunday prices topped that mark for the first time, hitting $3.064, followed by $3.073 on Monday.
California had the highest average price, with a gallon of self-serve unleaded costing $3.474 in the latest survey, although that was off of Tuesday's reading of $3.478.
South Carolina had the cheapest gas, but it is also creeping toward the mark of $3 a gallon with an average price of $2.853, up from $2.838 on Tuesday. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia now have average prices at or above $3 a gallon, with Kentucky, Florida and Maryland crossing that threshold in Wednesday's reading. Pennsylvania, at $2.992, and Massachusetts, at $2.986, are poised to be the next to join that group.
The Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of service station prices also found Monday a new record high of $3.10 a gallon for unleaded. That was up 5 cents from a week earlier and up 16 percent over year-ago levels.
And there's likely to be more price increases ahead, according to EIA chief Guy Caruso.
Caruso told reporters at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on gasoline prices Tuesday afternoon that not all of the recent rise in wholesale gas costs has been reflected in what consumers are now paying at the pump, although he wouldn't speculate on how high retail prices might yet go, according to a Reuters report.
In his testimony, Caruso said that prices should eventually retreat, but that the drop won't be large or immediate.
"With refinery production expected to improve during the rest of May and import volumes increasing over the last few weeks, gasoline markets may ease somewhat, causing gasoline prices to recede from their current high levels," Caruso told lawmakers. However, Caruso warned that continued tight refinery conditions, low gasoline inventories and increased demand for summer travel would continue to put "upward pressure on gasoline prices."
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.