Don’t expect gasoline prices to go down any time soon

By Robert Stanton
Houston Chronicle staff writer

As the price of gasoline at the pump continues to soar nationally, Houston motorists can breathe a sigh of relief as prices remain a bit lower here.

But for how long, that’s a different question.

Nationally, the average price for unleaded regular gasoline at the pump topped $3.51 a gallon, a cent higher than the record average price last year, according to AAA gas gauge. Houston drivers are paying on average $3.43, or or 4 cents more than last week.

Gasoline prices have been slowly climbing to the $4 mark in 2012 as three northeast refineries close, high oil prices and tensions in the Middle East drive up the price at the pump. So far, gasoline prices have risen more than 20 cents in the past month, and those prices are likely to climb even higher.

Tom Kloza, chief analyst for Oil Price Information Service, said drivers should expect to see higher prices in the near future after the average national prices topped $3.50 this weekend.

“Recent history suggests that when fuel prices surpass $3.50, they stay there for some time,” he wrote.

The national price for gas surpassed the record annual average price in a mere 42 days. Last year, gasoline prices didn’t eclipse $3.50 a gallon until March 8, and in 2008, which posted the all-time high at $4.11, gas prices didn’t hit $3.50 until late April.

During 2008, regular gasoline, which hit an all-time high of $4.11, stayed above that $3.50-mark for 138 consecutive days after hitting the mark in late April, Kloza wrote. Last year, the stay was even longer.

After hitting the mark on March 8, motorists paid more than $3.50 a gallon for 203 consecutive days, Kloza wrote.

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