Gas prices spike, may threaten record high

A sign shows gasoline prices at a gas station in Carson, California March 2, 2011. The price of crude oil jumped to above USD102 a barrel as violent clashes in Libya between leader Moamer Kadhafi's forces and the opposition stoked concerns about the country's oil production. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK

If you've filled up your tank in recent days, the numbers should come as no surprise.

The latest Lundberg survey out tonight puts the average price of regular nationwide at $3.77 a gallon, up 19 cents in just three weeks and 91 cents in a year. In many cities, gas prices are higher still.

CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy reports that in California, drivers are already used to paying a premium for fuel. On Sunday in Los Angeles, however, drivers are seeing sky-high prices, leaving many scrambling all over for the cheapest gas stations.

In Los Angeles, the cost of gas now averages $4.14 per gallon. It hasn't been that expensive since 2008. With prices climbing all across the country, drivers are getting fed up with filling up. At one gas station in New York, prices increased 10 cents overnight.

"If I fill up it's like $90 dollars," said New Yorker John Dematos. "It's a lot of money."

Dematos is not alone in feeling the pain at the pump.

"I remember when I was a kid it was twenty three cents a gallon!" exclaimed Helen Lopez.

In just the past few weeks, prices have shot up by 12 cents per gallon in California ($4.14 per gallon), 12 cents in New Jersey ($3.56 per gallon), and a whopping 23 cents in Oklahoma ($3.62). The national average is now $3.74 per gallon, according to AAA.

The bad news is, there is no good news. With no end to the unrest in the Middle East in sight, prices are expected to keep rising. Experts say the average cost of gas could exceed 2008's all-time record of $4.11 cents.

The current spike started back in February when the rebellion in Libya's oil fields put a stop to the country's daily exports of 1.5 million barrels of crude. That has caused oil speculators to push up the price. At the same time, here at home, refineries are switching to their summer blend, which also increases the cost.

Paradoxically, as the overall U.S. economy improves, that further increases the demand for gas, which puts even more upward pressure on prices at the pump. So any which way you look, be prepared to pay more to fill up.

  • Terry McCarthy

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