National average gasoline prices rose Monday to the highest average ever for the date -- $3.72 per gallon – and could rise further by Labor Day, experts say.
Retail gasoline prices have risen nearly 12 percent since July 1 because of higher oil prices and problems with refineries and pipelines that created temporary supply shortages in some regions. An increase in the price of ethanol, which is blended into gasoline, was also a factor.
At $3.67 on Monday, the average price per gallon of unleaded gasoline in Wilkes-Barre was 3 cents higher over the past week, 23 cents over the past month and is up nine cents over the average one year ago.
"Motorists are paying more for gasoline than they did this time last year, following the upswing in prices at the pump since July 4," said Jana L. Tidwell, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which tracks gas trends. "The outlook for the next few weeks is grim in terms of costs at the self-serve kiosk."
"Experts see prices rising through Labor Day, but they do not expect a big spike considering rising prices coincide with the end of the summer driving season," Tidwell said. "This is typically a time when gas expenditures start a downward trend, as long driving vacations decrease and kids are back in school; however, recent trends have been anything but typical so it may very well be a wait and see as autumn approaches."
Gas prices got as high as $3.96 on April 6 but then declined to $3.19 per gallon in June. The all time high locally is $4.06, on July 17, 2008. By 2009, gas was back down below $3.
Jenny L. Robinson, another AAA spokeswoman, said "assuming no disasters or international incidents occur" the $4 plateau should not be reached locally this year.
But those sorts of variables are always out there, she noted.
"We're entering the typically busy part of the hurricane season," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.