Lundberg Survey: Gas Prices Set Another Record

Retail gas prices hit another record high over the past three weeks, mirroring a rapid increase in the cost of crude oil, according to a nationwide survey released Sunday.

The average price for all three grades rose nearly 20 cents to $2.53 in the three weeks ending Aug. 12, said Trilby Lundberg (search), who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey (search) of 7,000 gas stations around the country. The figures were not adjusted for inflation.

In the same three-week period, crude oil price futures rose about $8.21. A barrel of oil produces about 42 gallons of gasoline, resulting in a price increase of 19.6 cents per gallon — nearly identical to the 19.8 cent rise in the price of gas at the pumps, Lundberg said.

There was scant good news for consumers in the latest report.

Demand for gas will remain high through August, but should drop after Labor Day. Prices should soften after that assuming underlying crude oil prices hold stable and refinery activity and shipments aren't interrupted by natural disasters, such as major hurricanes, Lundberg said.

Retail prices have risen an average of 70 cents since the beginning of the year and are up 62.7 cents from last August, Lundberg said.

Still, adjusted for inflation, prices have yet to climb to the record levels reached in the 1980s.

Gas prices in March 1981 would be $3.03 per gallon expressed in today's dollars, Lundberg said, while a barrel of oil would be about $90.

"I'm feeling it," said driver Adolfo Fernandez, a Los Angeles resident who was filling his BMW Sunday with premium unleaded at a cost of $2.97 per gallon. "I feel sorry for the people who really feel it and can't afford it."

According to the survey, self-serve regular averaged $2.50 a gallon nationwide. Midgrade was pegged at $2.59, with premium-grade was at $2.69.

Among the stations included in the survey, the highest price for unleaded regular was in San Diego at $2.76. The best deal was in Cheyenne, Wyo., at $2.31 a gallon.