Drivers felt the crunch at the pump this week with gasoline prices today reaching $3.28 a gallon for regular unleaded, up 12 cents from the end of February.
Midgrade mirrored regular gasoline, rising 12 cents to $3.48. Premium gasoline jumped 13 cents to $3.61 compared with two weeks ago. Diesel fuel inched closer to $4, rising 30 cents to $3.94 a gallon, according to AAA, of Heathrow, Fla.
E85 ethanol rose 9 cents to $2.68 a gallon. The adjusted price of E85 reached $3.53 a gallon, up 12 cents. The price of E85 is adjusted to reflect the fuel's lower energy content compared to gasoline.
The surge in gasoline prices came after crude oil rose to a record $111 a barrel in trading Thursday, March 13. Crude oil prices dipped to $109.92 by this afternoon.
AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report provides national average fuel prices based on data from as many as 85,000 filling stations nationwide. Hit the jump for more info.
There are still more price increases to come, said Doug MacIntyre, senior oil industry analyst for the federal Energy Information Administration.
"This is not the peak season. We still have not seen all the costs of crude oil transferred to the pump," MacIntyre told Automotive News.
Growth rates and energy demands of countries such as India and China are fueling the rise in the price of crude oil. And, MacIntyre said, "For every $10 increase in crude oil, it represents 24 cents a gallon."
Consumers can expect prices to continue to go up between now and Memorial Day.
Gasoline prices are already affecting automotive manufacturers across the United States. Toyota Motor Corp. informed employees this week that the automaker plans to "slow the rate of production" later this spring at plants in San Antonio and Princeton, Ind., where it makes the Toyota Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV.
"We have a long-term view of the industry, and like everyone else, we are trying to ride out the storm," Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota, said in an interview with Automotive News.
Bo Andersson, General Motors' purchasing chief, understands the effect that gasoline prices have on vehicle production.
"GM logistics costs are impacted $6 million for every dollar a barrel that oil prices fluctuate," he said at an industry event Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich.
When gasoline reaches $3.30 a gallon, Andersson said, consumers reassess big-ticket purchases.
There is hope … next year
Crude oil has the most direct effect on today's gasoline trends, MacIntyre said. The only way for any relief to occur would be for crude oil prices to fall dramatically.
The Energy Information Administration does expect gasoline prices to level out, but not until the end of 2008 or even next year. The forecast is based on the expectation of completed oil industry projects in 2009 that will increase production.
For today, drivers in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, had to deal with the highest pump price in the nation at $4.19 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. Burlington, N.J., drivers saw the lowest price at $2.93 a gallon for regular, according to www.GasPriceWatch.com
. The Web site relies on volunteers to report pump prices nationwide.