Come January, those stubbornly high gas pump prices might seem like an unwelcome house guest who overstays his welcome.
Drivers in many states already pay at least $3 a gallon for regular, and analysts don't expect any relief soon. That's because crude oil has hovered at $83 to $89 a barrel since Thanksgiving.
The national average for regular gasoline was $2.981 a gallon Monday, according to a survey by AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That's about the same as a week ago and more than a dime higher than a month ago. A year ago the average was $2.59 a gallon.
Motorists in Washington, California, Hawaii, Illinois and Maine are among those paying the highest prices — from $3.092 a gallon to $3.618 a gallon. The Rockies, Texas and parts of the Midwest have the cheapest gas, ranging from $2.738 a gallon to $2.827 a gallon.
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A new study from business management firm PortiaGroup with data supplied by OPIS finds the average U.S. household will spend about $305 on gasoline this December, up almost 14 percent from last December and 76 percent more than December 2008. Gasoline is taking a bigger bite of median household income this year: 7.4 percent, compared with 6.5 percent last year and 4.2 percent two years ago, the study says.
Energy analyst Jim Ritterbusch thinks the national average for a gallon of regular will range at $2.90 to $3.07 a gallon through February.
Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at OPIS, expects prices to fall during the winter and then begin to climb again. He has forecast prices of $3.25 to $3.75 a gallon from March to May, barring an unforeseen global economic issue. Pump prices could top $4 a gallon again in some states for the peak driving season if oil prices continue to climb.