Gas prices rise for 33rd consecutive day

Fuel prices are displayed at a gas station in New York on Feb. 18, 2013. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)

Have you felt lately like gas prices have been higher every time you’ve gone to the pump? If so, you’re not imagining things.

Tuesday marked the 33rd consecutive day that  the nation’s gas prices have increased, according to AAA.

The streak of gas price increases is “an anomaly,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II. This is the earliest in the calendar that gas has hit $3.75, he said.

Gas prices have skyrocketed nationwide. Today, the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the U.S. is $3.75; a year ago, it was $3.57.

The increases have also been substantial in the Washington area. Gas costs $3.95 in D.C., up from $3.76 a year earlier and dangerously close to the ominous $4 barrier. In Virginia and Maryland, the increases haven’t been as severe as they have nationally or in D.C., but they come close: A gallon of regular unleaded is $3.76 in Maryland (versus $3.62 a year earlier) and $3.65 in Virginia (it was $3.54 last year).

And much of this has come very recently. The national average gas price is $3.75 today, compared with $3.30 just a month ago. Those four weeks have brought 45 cents of additional financial pain for every gallon pumped.

These hikes have been downright palpable in the Washington area during that window. Over the last month alone, prices jumped 39 cents in Virginia and 37 cents in D.C. and Maryland.

January and February represent the nadir of road travel each year, with the lowest volume of drivers on the road during those months. In the dead of winter, few people take vacations, and snowstorms keep drivers off the roads. Yet prices have only risen in spite of the decrease in demand.

“This is unseemly,” Towsend said. “This is unnatural. … It is no exaggeration to say that we’re feeling pain at the pump.”

The daily fuel price report from AAA shows that as of today, D.C.’s prices remain among the highest in the country. The $3.95 gallon of gas in the District lags only behind Hawaii ($4.28), California ($4.17), New York ($3.99) and Connecticut ($3.97).

And while gas in D.C. still costs under $4 a gallon, it should reach that mark by the end of the week or next week, Townsend said.

Last year, gas prices in the area hit $4 in late March. As Townsend said at the time, that also represented the earliest time prices topped that number.

And in terms of a cause, AAA blames the cost of crude oil, refinery shutdowns and speculation in commodities markets. Some of these issues were already creeping up at the beginning of the year.

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