U.S. average retail gasoline prices rose by nearly 5 cents and are poised to rise further as those who make, distribute and sell gasoline see their profit margins squeezed, according to an industry analyst.
The national average for self-serve regular unleaded gas was nearly $2.80 a gallon on Oct. 19, up 4.92 cents per gallon in the past two weeks, according to the nationwide Lundberg survey of about 7,000 gas stations.
This was about 38 cents below the May 18, 2007, all-time high of more than $3.18.
"While gasoline prices moved up just under a nickel in that period, crude oil prices are up the equivalent of 18 cents per gallon," said survey editor Trilby Lundberg. "That missing 13 cents and more will probably turn up at the pump and soon because it represents margin squeeze over months for refiners, jobbers and retails -- those who make, deliver and sell gasoline."
That is in addition to other factors that have fueled high prices at the pump: winter heating oil demand and refinery capacity utilization rates.
"These losses for refiners, jobbers and retailers tell us where gasoline prices have to go, which is up substantially," she said. "The only thing that could avert that would be a crash in the crude oil price, and I think that is not likely at all near term."
The average price is likely to exceed $3 per gallon in coming weeks, Lundberg said.
At $3.17 a gallon, San Francisco had the highest average price for self-serve regular unleaded gas, while the lowest price was $2.56 a gallon in Newark, New Jersey, although Lundberg noted that price was not strictly a direct comparison, as New Jersey offers no self-serve gasoline.