Rising gasoline prices tightened the squeeze on drivers Monday, jumping for the first time to an average $3.50 a gallon at filling stations...
NEW YORK — Rising gasoline prices tightened the squeeze on drivers Monday, jumping for the first time to an average $3.50 a gallon at filling stations across the country with no sign of relief.
In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, AAA reported Monday that regular gas rose to $3.64 a gallon, up from $3.54 a month ago. Diesel rose to $4.43 Monday from $4.13 a month ago.
Crude oil set a record for the sixth day in a row — this time closing above $117 a barrel — after an attack on a Japanese oil tanker in the Middle East rattled investors.
Diesel prices at the pump also struck a record high of $4.20 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s sure to add to truckers’ costs and drive up the price of food, clothing and other goods shipped by truck.
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“You and I are going to pay more,” said Bob Costello, chief economist of American Trucking Associations. “Exactly how much I can’t tell you, but it’s got to show up.”
Gasoline and diesel prices are expected to keep climbing as they trace the path of crude. Oil prices are charging ahead along with a host of commodities that are enticing speculators seeking hedges against a weakening dollar.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose to a record $117.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange before settling at $117.48, up 79 cents from Friday’s close.
Gas jumped more than a nickel over the weekend and is up 23 percent from a year ago. Drivers in New Jersey are paying the least, while drivers in California pay the most, $3.86 a gallon for regular unleaded.
The Energy Department predicted earlier this month that the monthly average gasoline price will peak at more than $3.60 per gallon in June and could even reach $4.
“It’s uncharted territory,” said Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J. “I don’t think we’re done, but I have to believe we’re in the eighth or ninth inning” of price increases.
Energy Department data show Americans used about 1 percent less gas in the four weeks ended April 11 than they did a year earlier.
That change, while not drastic, is significant, said Mariano Gurfinkel, project manager at the Center for Energy Economics, who expects per-capita demand to drop further this summer unless gas prices fall.
Americans will continue to drive, but some may change their summer-vacation destinations as gasoline costs continue to make a bigger dent in their pocketbooks, Gurfinkel said.