Oil prices are approaching $50 a barrel, meaning higher gasoline prices are just down the pike — perhaps just in time for Labor Day (search) weekend.

In fact, experts say, Americans might just be greeted by $3-a-gallon gas at the pump next year.

In spite of it all, Americans don't seem to be conserving gasoline, and worldwide oil production is currently near capacity. In China, oil imports are up 40 percent.

In fact, the market is so tight that any threat to worldwide supply — like the fighting in Iraq or political instability in Venezuela — could immediately lead to a price spike.

Some energy experts even see higher oil prices as a good thing, saying it's the only way to decrease demand and thus reduce costs in the long run.

Before Monday, U.S. prices for crude set record peaks on all but one of the previous 16 sessions. Positive news in Iraq helped keep the situation steady, with the war-torn country beginning again to pump oil through its northern fields after a three-month halt.

Go to the video link at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Phil Keating.