Gasoline prices in the United States are the highest they’ve ever been for this time of year, the Associated Press reported. Currently, the US average is $3.53 a gallon, up 25 cents since the beginning of the year.
The reason for the pain at the pump is higher oil prices. Brent crude from the North Sea is up 11 percent this year, averaging $119 a barrel, due to trouble with Iran, cold weather in Europe and growing demand from developing countries, the AP reported. In the US, West Texas Intermediate has increased 4 percent to $103 a barrel.
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And the worst is yet to come, according to the experts. The Oil Price Information Service estimates that gasoline could peak at $4.25 a gallon by the end of April, the AP reported.
“You’re going to see a lot more staycations this year,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, told the AP. “When the price gets anywhere near $4, you really see people react.”
$4-a-gallon gas is already a reality in many locations in California, the Los Angeles Times reported. On Friday, average prices rose above $4 in the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc region ($4.031 a gallon); in the San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles region ($4.030); and in San Francisco ($4.006 a gallon), according to the LA Times.
The state average for Feb. 17 was a record-setting $3.956 a gallon, or 45.3 cents more per gallon than this time last year, the LA Times reported.
Republicans are seizing on the bite higher gas prices are taking out of Americans’ budgets to attack President Barack Obama during this election year, the New York Times reported. They say he’s squelched oil production.
According to the New York Times:
In a closed-door meeting last week, Speaker John A. Boehner instructed fellow Republicans to embrace the gas-pump anger they find among their constituents when they return to their districts for the Presidents’ Day recess. “This debate is a debate we want to have,” Mr. Boehner told his conference on Wednesday, according to a Republican aide who was present.
Obama aides told the New York Times that the president will deflect Republican criticism by highlighting his administration’s efforts to promote fuel efficient cars and develop new areas of oil and natural gas production, like expanding oil exploration in Arctic waters.