Gasoline Prices Hit Another High

Record high gasoline prices are seen Tuesday, March, 23, 2004, at a gas station in Van Nuys section of Los Angeles. Gasoline prices in the United States continue to soar
Gasoline prices reached another record high in the past two weeks, a national survey said, and the surveyor said there is little chance that prices will fall significantly in the near future.

Gas prices climbed another 3 cents in the two weeks ended Friday, said Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg survey, which regularly surveys 8,000 stations nationwide.

The nationwide average in the past two weeks is $1.80 for all grades, surpassing the record set in the previous two-week period, Lundberg said.

Gasoline prices are up 29 cents per gallon nationwide since late December, Lundberg said. The national weighted average price of gasoline, including taxes, at self-serve pumps Friday was about $1.77 for regular, $1.87 for midgrade, and $1.96 for premium.

Increased demand will likely result from an improving economy, Memorial Day travel, and even the extra hour of light from daylight savings time, Lundberg said.

"The demand push this time of year is adding to supply tightness and therefore price," Lundberg said. "I don't see any recipe for substantial gasoline price cuts anytime soon."

San Diego has the highest gas prices in the country, at $2.12 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Los Angeles is close behind, at $2.10 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

Even if the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decides at its meeting Wednesday to cancel plans to reduce oil production April 1, growing demand makes it unlikely prices will fall much, Lundberg said. Worldwide demand for crude oil is increasing with U.S. demand for gasoline, she said.

Gasoline prices usually rise between March and May as refiners temporarily shut down their plants to prepare for the peak summer driving season, when special clean-burning blends of fuel are required. These shutdowns shrink supplies.

This year, the effect on price has been magnified because commercial gasoline inventories are already low. For the week that ended March 12, U.S. inventories stood at 199.6 million barrels, down from 202.1 million barrels a year ago.