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Gas Prices Continue To Rise For 5th Straight Week; Could Set New Record Highs

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- U.S. gasoline prices began 2012 with the highest number ever to start a new year. The price of regular unleaded rose eight cents this past week alone.

Tim Williams explains the climb may continue through the end of summer.

As fireworks marked the New Year by going up, so did gas prices across the country.

"Consistent with what we saw at the very end of 2011, gas prices, as well as crude oil prices, have steadily increased," said Ragina Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The price in Maryland is $3.34 a gallon. It's a penny lower than the national average but nine cents higher than last week.

"Three dollars a gallon. Five dollars gets you what, a gallon and a half?" said one driver.

Recent threats by Iran to shut down one of the world's most significant oil routes are causing analysts to speculate over just how drastically prices may climb in the U.S.

"Certainly we have enough issues going on in the world and in this country the tendency could be higher," said Pete Horrigan, Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association.

Gas prices have now risen for the fifth consecutive week. Analysts say that if this trend continues, it will likely break $4 per gallon by spring and ultimately set new record highs.

"Additionally, Congress failed to renew a federal subsidy for ethanol at the end of last year and that may have some impact on gas prices," Averella said.

This time of year when fuel demand is down, prices typically drop. But 2011 had the highest recorded average for an entire year, so experts don't expect an immediate turnaround.

"Based on the geo-political events and what we're seeing with crude oil prices, it does not look very promising for gas prices in the near future," Averella said.

AAA cautions any unforseen natural disasters will likely send prices higher than currently expected.

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