Gas at $3.04 -- Near Record High

The Energy Department reported today that the average price of a gallon of gasoline went up by more than three cents last week to $3.04.

That's within striking distance of the nominal record price ($3.07) set the week after Hurricane Katrina took out a third of the nation's refining capacity last year.

With the increase in prices, Americans are spending 28 percent more on gasoline than they were a year ago, when prices averaged $2.37.

It's important to note that today's results do not include any change that could be attributable to the shutdown of BP oil pipelines in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The government gas survey released today reflects retail prices on Saturday, a full day before BP announced it will shut down down its 400,000 barrel-a-day Alaskan oil field to repair corrosion in the transit pipeline that moves the crude.

The BP field accounts for 8 percent of U.S. crude oil production and more than half of Alaska's oil output. News of the shutdown drove oil prices up by $2 a barrel and could boost gasoline prices even higher this week -- potentially challenging the price records set last fall.

California and the West Coast saw gas prices drop last week by a very moderate amount. These are the areas of the country most likely to see a big bump in prices in the coming days thanks to the Prudhoe shutdown.