Gasoline prices have surged across the country in the past week, with drivers anticipating even higher prices as they prepare to hit the road for spring break in the coming months.

The national average price for a gallon of gas reached $3.338 on Thursday, marking the highest level of the year. This increase of 5.4 cents from the previous week and over 20 cents from February presents challenges for drivers nationwide.

Regional Price Disparities

As of Thursday afternoon, California topped the list with an average price of $4.731 per gallon, followed by Washington and Nevada at $4.094 and $3.959, respectively. Additional states, such as Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, are also experiencing average retail prices exceeding $3.40 per gallon according to GasBuddy data.

Continued Upward Trend

Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA, predicts that the upward trend in gas prices will persist as spring travelers hit the road. Diaz mentioned in a recent press release that March and April historically bring higher gas prices as demand rises with the onset of milder temperatures and subsequent increase in road trips. This period serves as a harbinger to the summer driving season.

Increased Gas Demand

Demand for gasoline surged to 8.41 million barrels per day for the week ending Feb. 23, up from 8.33 million barrels in the preceding week. Concurrently, total domestic gasoline stocks decreased by 2.8 million barrels to 244.2 million barrels during the same timeframe as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Gas Prices Surge Amid Middle East Tensions

The recent spike in gas prices has defied stable oil prices, largely due to escalating tensions in the Middle East. Reports of Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea and an attack on U.S. troops in Jordan have heightened the risk of oil supply disruptions, leading to increased gasoline prices.

Oil Prices on the Rise

In February, the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude and global benchmark Brent crude both saw significant monthly gains. West Texas Intermediate settled at $78.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude ended at $83.62 on ICE Futures Europe.

Summer-grade gasoline, which has lower volatility to reduce evaporative emissions, is more expensive to produce compared to winter-grade gasoline. As a result, consumers can expect higher prices at the pump in the coming months.

Gas prices expected to rise, but not excessively

Gasoline prices are projected to increase by 15 to 40 cents in the next 60 days, according to industry expert Kloza. While this may seem alarming, Kloza reassures that this prediction aligns with the usual yearly trend. His research indicates that there will not be a significant spike in gas prices this year, offering some relief to consumers.

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