Gas price record reaches $4 a gallon
AAA's daily survey tops the milestone for the first time after a 1.7-cent rise. Lundberg survey nears $4 as well.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Gasoline rose to a milestone mark Sunday as the national average compiled by motorist group AAA reached $4 a gallon for the first time.
In a second survey, the average price came within 0.2 cent of $4 a gallon in the Lundberg Survey, which showed a 20-cent rise in the past three weeks to a new record.
The national average for regular unleaded rose 1.7 cents to $4.005, according the daily measure on the AAA's Web site. That surpassed the previous record of $3.989 set Thursday.
The milestone was expected after a surge in crude oil prices added more than $16 to a barrel of oil over the last 2 trading days. Crude settled at a record $138.54 a barrel Friday, up by $10.75, after setting an all-time intraday high of $139.12.
The $10.75 gain was the biggest one-day advance in dollar value ever, nearly doubling the previous mark of $5.49 set Thursday. Weakness in the dollar, geopolitical concerns and an analyst's prediction of $150-a-barrel oil by July 4 helped spur Friday's advance.
In a statement Friday, AAA urged gasoline station owners not to overreact to the single-day oil spike.
"Consumers should not be overcharged for gasoline simply because the oil markets reacted so strongly to today's news," AAA said.
Big jump felt across the nation
So far this year, crude prices have increased more than 40%.
The average price is $4 a gallon or more in 14 states and the District of Columbia, according to the survey. California pays the most for gasoline, averaging $4.436, with Alaska and Connecticut both at $4.296. Other states above $4 are Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and West Virginia.
Missouri has the lowest average price at $3.802, followed by South Carolina at $3.809.
Gas prices have risen more than 10% from $3.671 a month ago and are nearly 29% higher than the $3.105 average a year ago, according to the AAA figures.
Gasoline prices in the survey have risen for 31 of the past 33 days, setting records on 29 of those days.
The price of diesel fuel, used by truckers hauling goods across the country, rose 0.8 cent to $4.762 a gallon. That's 3 cents below the all-time high set May 30.
On its Web site, AAA says the information is gathered by Oil Price Information Service based on credit card swipes at 85,000 gasoline stations across the nation.
'Essentially $4 a gallon'
In the Lundberg Survey, the average price of gasoline jumped up another 20 cents a gallon in the past three weeks to a record-breaking $3.99 a gallon for self-serve regular.
The survey showed that the average price at gas stations around the nation was just a fraction of a cent under $4 a gallon, said survey publisher Trilby Lundberg.
"We got an average price of $3.9985," said Lundberg. "This is essentially $4 a gallon. And unfortunately all indications are showing that this number is going to grow."
The Lundberg survey tallies prices at thousands of gas stations across the country. The latest survey was conducted from May 16 until June 6.
The main reason for the price hike was record highs in crude oil prices, Lundberg said.
The area with the highest average gas prices was Stockton, Calif., which posted $4.41 per gallon. The area with the cheapest gas was Wichita, Kan., which posted an average price of $3.65 per gallon.
Average prices in other areas included: Denver, $3.85; Houston, $3.82; Baltimore, $3.93; Detroit, $3.95, Atlanta, $3.99; Seattle, $4.22; and Hartford, Conn., $4.23
Prices put a brake on driving
Higher gas prices have prompted a growing number of Americans to modify their driving habits.
A recent study by the Department of Transportation showed that the number of drivers on the road in March fell 4.3% versus the previous year. That was the first time March travel on public roads fell in nearly 30 years.
In addition to driving less, many consumers are shifting away from large, low mileage vehicles toward smaller vehicles that consume less gas.
Falling demand for gas-guzzlers has hit some of the nation's largest automakers hard. General Motors announced plans last week to shut four truck and SUV plants and said it would ramp up producing more fuel-efficient cars. Ford also recently said it would trim production of large trucks and roll out more small cars and crossovers.
But carmakers aren't the only ones hurt by soaring gas prices. The airline industry, which was ailing even before gas prices spiked, has been fraught with near-bankruptcies, drastic cost cutting efforts and mass groundings of aircraft.
Last week, Continental Airlines said it is eliminating about 3,000 jobs and grounding 67 mainline aircraft to cope with the rising cost of fuel. Other airlines have hiked fuel surcharges to fares and added fees to once-free benefits, such as food and checked baggage.