CAMARILLO, Calif. – Gas prices (search) have hit a record high of $2.33 a gallon, pushed up by the climbing cost of oil and strong demand in the midst of the summer vacation season, an industry analyst said Sunday.
Motorists could have more bad news on the way, with Hurricane Dennis (search) bedeviling Gulf of Mexico oil production, which could send pump prices to even loftier levels.
The $2.33-a-gallon mark — a national average for all grades of gasoline — narrowly surpassed the prior record of $2.32 set in April, said Trilby Lundberg (search), who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations around the country. The figures are not adjusted for inflation.
The record price, based on figures compiled Friday, was up nearly a dime from the survey two weeks earlier.
"It's quite possible, if crude oil prices remain around $60 a barrel, that retail gasoline prices might rise a bit more because of strong demand," Lundberg said.
According to the survey, self-serve regular averaged $2.31 a gallon nationwide, up from $2.21 on June 24. Midgrade averaged $2.40, with premium-grade hitting $2.50.
Among the stations included in the survey, the highest price for unleaded regular was in San Diego at $2.55 a gallon. The best deal was in Charleston, S.C., at $2.09 a gallon.
The $2.33 mark remained well below the inflation-adjusted high — $3.03 a gallon, in March 1981.
Oil prices settled just below $60 a barrel on Friday. The Group of Eight industrialized nations, which met last week in Scotland, said that surging oil prices posed a risk for the world economy.
Lundberg noted that demand for gasoline was up 2.5 percent compared to last June, despite the jump in prices. A stronger economy, she said, made the price "more absorbable" for consumers.