Retail gas prices rose nearly 20 cents during the past three weeks, mirroring a rapid increase in the cost of crude oil, according to a...

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LOS ANGELES — Retail gas prices rose nearly 20 cents during the past three weeks, mirroring a rapid increase in the cost of crude oil, according to a nationwide survey released yesterday.

The average price for all three grades rose to $2.53 in the period ending Aug. 12, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes a survey of 7,000 gas stations around the country. The figures were not adjusted for inflation.

According to the survey, self-serve regular averaged $2.50 a gallon nationwide. Midgrade was pegged at $2.59, with premium-grade was at $2.69.

Among the stations in the survey, the highest price for unleaded regular was in San Diego at $2.76. The best deal was in Cheyenne, Wyo., at $2.31 a gallon.

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Prices should soften when demand for gas drops after Labor Day, Lundberg said, assuming underlying crude-oil prices hold stable and refinery activity and shipments aren’t interrupted by natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

Retail prices have risen an average of 70 cents since the beginning of the year. Still, adjusted for inflation, prices have yet to climb to the record levels reached in the 1980s.

Gas prices in March 1981 would be $3.03 per gallon in today’s dollars, Lundberg said.