The pain at the gas pump seems to only have grown worse for American drivers. Global unease about the tensions and revolt in the Middle East sent gas prices soaring in the month of February. Everyone from analysts, politicians, and everyday drivers have stopped to wonder when we will see relief.
Since February 1, the national average for a gallon of gasoline has risen 41 cents. Over the past two weeks gas prices have climbed every day, with a total increase of 13 cents.
Prices have increased as a direct result of the turmoil in the Middle East over the past month and a half. The uprising in Libya against Col. Muammar Gaddafi, specifically, caused the biggest jump in the price of crude oil, a main ingredient in gasoline. Crude oil now stands at $106 per barrel, a 2-1/2 year high.
The added sticker shock of gas prices is worse because Memorial Day weekend is still over two and half months away. The holiday is the unofficial start of the summer driving season, a time of year known for higher-than-normal prices. If prices were to continue to climb at this rate, they are expected to be well over $5.00 per gallon by the end of May. Analysts told CNN they believe in the short term we will see at least $3.75 per gallon gasoline as a national average.
Variations in the price of gas are still in place across the country. California, Alaska, and Hawaii saw the highest average prices at or near $3.90 per gallon. Wyoming and Montana boasted the lowest average prices at $3.19 per gallon each.
Despite averages for each state, a gallon of gas is still sometimes 10 to 20 cents higher in dense metropolitan areas than exurban and rural areas. For instance, in the Atlanta area, gas prices can vary widely from downtown to the airport, only a 15-minute ride. Depending on the county, some suburban areas have prices that are consistently lower than in the city. An average gallon of gas in Georgia costs $3.41.
Pressure is building on President Barack Obama to tap the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Over the weekend, his Chief of Staff Bill Daley confirmed with NBC’s Meet the Press that the president plans to use the reserves of oil to ease the prices at the pump. It is unclear exactly when drivers will begin to see prices decrease as a result of the president’s action.