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Over the last few months, we’ve seen prices at the pumps steadily rise, to the point that the national average is now some $3.90 per gallon.
Some parts of the US, namely the District of Columbia and 10 states, including the likes of California, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Hawaii, are already above the $4.00 per gallon mark (Hawaii is currently the highest at $4.55).
Back in 2008, gas prices rose dramatically, blamed largely on growing demand from tiger economies in Asia (namely China and India), plus a futures market gone wild. Back then, $4.00 per gallon proved the tipping point at which motorists changed their purchasing and driving habits, many trading in large trucks and SUVs for smaller vehicles and simply driving less.
This time however, some analysts say that rising gas prices; blamed on tensions in the Middle East earlier this year (notably conflict in Libya and possible confrontations with Iran), along with a recovering global economy which has seen increased demand for crude, might have already peaked. A recent Lundberg survey noted that oil prices have remained relatively stable in March.
“If crude oil prices do not spike again, then gasoline prices will be peaking very soon. They may already be doing so,” remarked survey publisher Trilby Lundberg.
With around a fifth of US oil refining capacity still idled and the Obama administration appearing to be dragging its feet on boosting oil supplies (the Keystone pipeline saga being one hot topic), there are still fears that the price at the pumps could rise even higher, stalling fragile US economic growth.
That said, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, most Americans are spending less on fuel today than they did a generation ago, with 3.7 percent of national spending going to gasoline, as opposed to around 5 percent in the early 1980s.
As a result, despite still being a thorn in the side for most of us, at present, higher gas prices, aren’t generally hurting as much as they used to.