Nation Sees Record Gas Prices

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Gas prices climbed 5 cents in the last week, pushing the nation's nominal record price for gasoline past its record level for the first time since Hurricane Katrina wrecked a third of the nation's refining capacity.

Drivers across the nation now pay on average $3.10 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline, according to the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration. That's 3 cents higher than the Sept. 5, 2005, record of $3.07.

Prices have gone up 94 cents -- that's 42 percent -- during the past 15 weeks, thanks to a lower-than-average national stockpile of gasoline and demand that just keeps going up.

With this week's increase, prices are now 5 percent higher than their level a year ago when a gallon of gas cost $2.95 on average.

Drivers in most regions of the country saw stations adjusting the price boards upward last week -- except California, the region where prices are highest. California saw prices drop a penny. The cheapest gas can still be found on the Gulf Coast.

While this week saw record prices, drivers should note that when prices are adjusted for inflation, the most pain at the pump was actually felt in March 1981. In today's dollars, gas in 1981 cost about $3.22 a gallon.

Crude oil is the largest contributor to the price consumers pay at the pump, and oil prices went up marginally Monday. Traders were weighing the potential impact of rebels disrupting production in Nigeria and a fire at a refinery in Sweden.

Retail gas prices have been moving higher, thanks to the national supply of gasoline -- it has dropped in 12 of the past 13 weeks -- at a time when we normally see slight builds ahead of the summer driving season.

Wednesday, the EIA will release its weekly look at stockpiles and consumer demand for gasoline. Analysts believe at some point that prices will rise high enough to curtail demand and help push prices lower. Trouble at many of the nation's refineries is making it difficult to increase supplies in the weeks before the Memorial Day start to summer.

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