LOS ANGELES – Gas prices soared an average 19 cents in the past three weeks due to lingering high crude oil prices, growing demand and higher refining costs, an industry analyst said Sunday.
The average retail price for all three grades increased 18.95 cents to $2.32 per gallon between March 18 and Friday, said Trilby Lundberg (search), who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey (search) of 7,000 gas stations around the country.
The most popular grade, self-serve regular, was priced at $2.29 a gallon, while customers paid $2.38 for midgrade. Premium averaged $2.48 a gallon for the period.
Crude prices, which briefly reached $58 last week, are likely to stay above $50 a barrel well into next year, Lundberg said.
"It's very possible that unless crude oil prices show another upsurge, then gas prices may have hit their peak already or will soon," she said.
Last week, the Energy Department (search) said it expects gasoline prices to average $2.35 a gallon nationwide in May, the dawn of the heavy summer driving season. The Energy Information Administration reported that gasoline demand for this summer is projected to be 9.3 million barrels a day, up 1.8 percent over last summer, and the highest on record.
The highest average gas price in the nation for regular unleaded was $2.62 a gallon in Bakersfield (search). The lowest price was $2.06 in Newark, N.J.