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$4-a-gallon gas likely this spring, analysts say

By Laurie Frankel, CNN Business News
updated 1:38 PM EST, Thu January 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The national average is likely to hit $4 this spring, analysts say
  • The price could top the record average of $4.11 per gallon, AAA says
  • In major cities, prices could be in the mid-to-upper $4 range, one analyst says

New York (CNN) -- Get ready to pay $4 or more at the pump this spring: Analysts say gas prices could hit a record high.

Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at Oil Price Information Service, says he expects the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline to reach $4 to $4.25 per gallon for regular gasoline when the market peaks, sometime in between April and early May.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, projects the national average could hit between $3.75 and $4.15 at some point in May.

Both predictions indicate that consumers could pay record high prices within the next few months. The all-time high for the national average, according to AAA, stands at $4.11, reached in the summer of 2008.

DeHaan also points out gas prices are likely to be higher in major cities. He expects Chicagoans to pay between $4.60 and 4.95 per gallon, and Los Angeles residents to see prices in the mid-to-upper $4 range.

"Bigger cities will always have higher prices due to higher gas taxes and the cost of doing business," DeHaan said.

The closing of a major refinery in St. Croix is also expected to increase gas prices for consumers on the East Coast, analysts say.

"It's hard to say how much impact the refinery shutdown will have, but it will crimp supply and that's likely to increase prices," Rozell said. That could mean an extra 10 cents a gallon for people on the East Coast, he said.

Despite the possibility of record high gas prices this spring, Rozell says things could be worse. "Over the last 10 years, we have tended to see a 75% increase in prices from the winter low to the spring peak. This year, we are only forecasting about a 40% rise because of bearish economic news."

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