Energy Dept.: Retail Gas Just Below $2

U.S. retail gasoline prices climbed to within a fraction of a penny below $2 a gallon for the first time in four months and are on their way to a new record high, the government said on Monday.

The national pump price for regular unleaded gasoline jumped 7.1 cents over the last week to $1.999 a gallon, up 26 cents from a year ago, according to a survey of service stations by the Energy Information Administration (search).

It was the highest price since Nov. 8, when U.S. gasoline was last at $2 a gallon. The price for gasoline should shoot past the record of $2.06 a gallon later this month or by early April, according to the EIA.

Gasoline prices will keep rising due to strong motor fuel demand as the United States enters the spring driving season and as higher crude oil costs are passed on to consumers.

The price of crude, which has traded above $50 a barrel for several weeks now, accounts for about half the cost of making gasoline.

Truckers aren't finding any relief either. The price for diesel fuel jumped 5 cents to $2.168 a gallon, up 54 cents from a year ago and the fourth highest diesel price ever recorded by the EIA.

Truckers on the West Coast paid the most for diesel fuel at $2.45 a gallon, up 3.8 cents from the prior week. The Gulf Coast (search) states had the cheapest diesel at $2.10 a gallon, up 6.5 cents.

Treasury Secretary John Snow (search) said over the weekend that energy prices are "way too high" and act like a tax on the economy.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon on Monday urged the Bush administration to lobby OPEC harder to lower oil prices, which he said have "clobbered" consumers.

"OPEC is going to look out for OPEC. The question is whether this administration is going to stand up for the American consumer," Wyden said. "I don't think it's right to let OPEC run roughshod over the American consumer."

The oil cartel meets on March 16 to discuss oil production policy.