Government: Gas Prices Rise, But More Slowly

U.S. gasoline prices are still rising, but drivers got a little break at the pump over the last week as they did not have to dig much deeper into their pockets to fill up, the government said on Monday.

The national price for regular unleaded gasoline rose a slight 0.1 cent to just over $3 a gallon, according to the federal Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of service stations.

That was up 71 cents from a year ago and closer to the record $3.07 from last September, when Hurricane Katrina disrupted gasoline supplies,

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The EIA said it expects gasoline to stay around $3 a gallon for the rest of the summer, not dropping significantly until after the Labor Day holiday in September when there is usually a sharp decline in fuel demand.

The Energy Department's analytical warns that a hurricane could easily push the pump price to a new record high.

When adjusted for inflation, fuel costs are far from the monthly average of about $3.20 a gallon reached in March 1981.

However, because the current U.S. car and light truck fleet gets better fuel economy than 25 years ago, the average real cost of gasoline per mile traveled today is much less than 1981 levels, the EIA said.

High pump prices reflect higher crude oil prices, which account for about half the cost of making gasoline.

U.S. oil for delivery in September settled up $1.16 to $74.40 a barrel on Monday at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Strong gasoline demand, while curbed a little due to high fuel costs, was also pushing up prices.

In the agency's new weekly survey, the West Coast still had the most expensive gasoline by region, but the price was down 1.6 cents to $3.12 a gallon. Los Angeles had the highest pump price among cities at $3.24 a gallon, down 3 cents.

The Gulf Coast states had the cheapest gasoline at $2.91 a gallon, up 1.2 cents. Houston had the best city pump price at $2.90, down 0.7 cent.

The EIA also said the price truckers paid for diesel fuel shot up 3.4 cents to $2.98 a gallon, up 63 cents from a year ago. Diesel still has a way to go before hitting its record $3.16 set last October.

The West Coast had the most expensive diesel at $3.07 a gallon, up 1.9 cents. The lower Atlantic states had the cheapest diesel at $2.92, up 3.6 cents.

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