CONSUMER ALERT: More Drivers Than Ever May Pay $5 Per Gallon - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

CONSUMER ALERT: More Drivers Than Ever May Pay $5 Per Gallon

USATODAY.COM - More drivers than ever could soon be paying $5 for a gallon of gasoline. And the national average, up sharply in recent weeks, is likely to top out at about $4.

Rising oil prices, lower refining capacity, Middle East tension and speculators are propelling prices. The spike in crude, now at nine-month highs, has driven regular gas to a record February high of $3.65 a gallon — up 42 cents over a year ago.

Motorists along both coasts are paying more: an average $4.20 in California and $3.91 a gallon in New York. Prices along both coasts and other regions could continue to climb far higher. Fallout from a recent fire that's shuttered a major Washington state refinery could push regional prices up to 20 cents a gallon this weekend. says Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with price tracker gasbuddy.com.

Taxes, shipping and regional formulations make gas even pricier in some regions.

Florida drivers are paying $5.89 a gallon near Disney World, while gas at some Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles stations is up to $4.85.

"I don't foresee any situation — even a worsening crisis in Iran — that results in $5 a gallon gas nationally," said Patrick DeHaan of price-tracker gasbuddy.com. "You're going to see hot spots … that push prices towards $5, but the national range will be $3.75 to $4.15." We don't see a scenario for a national average higher than that for any length of time."

Typically, prices climb through Memorial Day. Increased pain at the pump is already heightening fears that consumer spending will slow, derailing the economic recovery. Prices hit a record $4.11 a gallon in July 2008 and peaked last year at about $3.98.

Hoping to ease griping over a hot button issue in an election year, President Obama said Thursday that there are no quick, easy fixes and ridiculed any Republican plan for "$2 gas."  click here to read the full article

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