As Libya Receives Sanctions, Gas Prices Jump After Biggest One Week Oil Rise in Two Years

Drivers on the go use their mobile device to find the cheapest gas.

Feb. 28, 2011 — -- After the biggest one-week rise in oil prices in two years, weekly gas prices increased 6 percent according to the Department of Energy today. The national average is $3.38 per gallon, an increase of 19 cents over the previous week and 68 cents from the previous year. The average price in California is $3.72 per gallon, one of the most expensive gas states. With the least expensive gas is the Rocky Mountain region at $3.18 a gallon.

Crude oil futures traded at $97.10 a barrel in New York amid the revolt in Libya. As unrest continues in the Middle East, investors did not seem assured that Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries would be willing to compensate for lost production.

Crude oil production has decreased between 500,000 to 750,000 barrels daily in Libya, less than one percent of global oil consumption, down from its typical capacity of 1.6 million barrels, the International Energy Agency reported Thursday.

Violence between Libyan leadership under Moammar Gadhafi and his opponents continued as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and leaders from other countries meeting in Geneva on Monday called on Gadhafi to step down. The European Union froze Libyan assets and implemented an arms embargo. Meanwhile, Gadhafi is adamant that he cannot step down.

"My people love me. They would die for me," he told ABC News. Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for 42 years, said he felt betrayed by the United States.

Consumers who are feeling the pinch in gas prices at the pump may be able to turn to online tools like Visitors to the site can find the cheapest gas in their neighborhood by zip code, based on data collected and reported by its users. Users also can earn points and win prizes by participating, such as a weekly $250 gas card drawing.

And drivers on the go can use their mobile device to find the closest and cheapest gas. GasBuddy released a mobile app for iPhones in December and is hoping to release a version for Blackberry devices by the second quarter this year. The free app uses GPS and cellular triangulation technology to provide listings for gas stations. GasBuddy also has an app for Android devices and Windows phones.

Patrick DeHaan, petroleum analyst at GasBuddy said that he has been "swamped" with requests and the growing website, which launched in 2000.

The company is based in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and has five employees.

"It's a pivotal time to use the GasBuddy app to distinguish stations that have and haven't raised prices," said DeHaan. He said, for example, GasBuddy users in Indianapolis, where prices went up 50 cents per gallon in one day last week, could have saved a great deal at the pump.

DeHaan said we have already seen the largest increases in gas prices disparately through the country.

"If average prices in your area haven't climbed more than 15 cents per gallon, you'll likely see further additional increases of at least 10 cents per gallon," DeHaan wrote in the GasBuddy blog.

Because of the recent spikes in gas prices, DeHaan said GasBuddy membership has increased especially in the past month.

"The smart phone app has been a huge success," said DeHaan. "We've had tens of downloads literally within one hour in the past week."

DeHaan said there are currently 79 million users between those who have downloaded the app and used the Internet to report gas prices.

DeHaan said the majority of gas prices are reported voluntarily from users, but GasBuddy also has a program for gas stations to report their prices directly.

When asked about the dependability of the volunteer reported data, DeHaan said they check each price posting for reliability. He said their system checks pricing patterns, a station's past history and its neighborhood competition.

"If someone accidentally presses wrong button, data integrity will test that," said DeHaan. "Most of the time our system is very reliable. We do on occasion independently confirm data."