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U.S. Gas Prices Soar

Director Tom Shadyac, left, poses with actors Kevin James and Wanda Sykes at the party after the premiere of Universal Pictures' "Evan Almighty" at the Gibson Amphitheatre and CityWalk Cinemas on June 10, 2007, in Universal City, Calif.
U.S. gasoline inventories are at the lowest levels in nine months, and prices are approaching record highs. Short supplies are to blame for the spike in prices, reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

And the results of these numbers are becoming clear to motorists at gas stations all across the country.

Californians, already suffering from recall fever, are now coming down with "gas-tritis" at the pumps as gasoline prices soar.

"I saw the guy out there changing the prices this morning. I thought it was ridiculous," says Tristan Cerenzie, a California resident.

And many fellow drivers share her reaction.

In San Diego, prices have jumped a quarter in less than two weeks. At some stations, regular gas hit $2.44 per gallon.

"It's outrageous. I only get .. What? ... three gallons pumping seven bucks," says Than Vo, a California resident.

And it's not just Golden Staters feeling gouged.

Next door, the Arizona governor toured the damaged pipeline blamed for shortages so acute desperate drivers waited for hours only to pay a premium — as much as $4 a gallon.

Prices in the Midwest and East spiked almost as soon as the blackout hit and refineries went off-line.

All in all, today's national average is $1.65 per gallon, as compared to a $1.40 this time last year.

And frenzied buying in the futures pit means prices haven't topped off just yet.

"I think it's pretty much guaranteed we're gonna break through that national record in the next ten days," says Tom Kloza of Oil Price Information Service.

It's particularly painful because by late summer demand usually slides and prices are on their way down, not up.

"The oil companies are going to try and make their money as best they can and this is an opportunity for them to raise the prices," says Jerry Long, an auto club member.

There's no question the oil companies are making money— as much as 20 or 30 cents on every gallon of gas they sell, reports Bowers.

"Refining margins have swelled to numbers that we've actually never seen," says Kloza. "We never even saw these numbers back in the seventies when everybody was Kung Fu fighting."

But as quickly as they are going up, experts say the high prices shouldn't last long. They should start heading down soon after Labor Day.