Troubling record about gasoline for drivers

Drivers, cover your ears: You are paying more for gasoline than ever before.

According to GasBuddy, the U.S. average is $3.63 per gallon so far this year, making this year the most expensive year for gasoline. The average is likely to fall a bit through December, but analysts say it’s unlikely to fall below record highs.

Consumers paid a record-high average of $3.51 last year.

“There’s no question that the national numbers were elevated by major supply problems in California over the summer and more recently on the East Coast when Hurricane Sandy delivered major flood damage and power outages at northeastern refineries,” said GasBuddy analyst Gregg Laskoski.

Gasoline prices have had a turbulent year throughout most of the U.S, including in Houston.

Houston drivers saw gasoline prices rise near the $4 mark during the first half of the year, but the pace eased during the summer months. Prices rose again in August before sliding again in mid-September.

Since then, the price of gasoline has been in a steady free fall in Houston.

Houston drivers are now averaging $3.13 for a gallon, a penny less than they did a week ago, according to AAA Fuel Gauge. Gasoline prices have shed more than 30 cents over the past month, and many analysts believe prices will remain near the $3 mark through most of the year.

But there’s a bit of uncertainty about the future price point for gasoline.

Analysts have mixed thoughts on where gasoline prices might be headed. Some believe gasoline prices could remain within a $3 per gallon and $4 per gallon window, but other analysts say the future is a bit murkier.

GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said he believes gasoline prices will continue to rise over the next decade, barring recessions that could sending prices down.

“As long as demand growth in China outpaces the drop in U.S. demand from more efficient vehicles, it will keep pressure on oil prices,” he said.

But Tom Kloza, an analyst with Oil Price Information Services, said he doesn’t believe that will be the case.

“I believe that prices for most of the decade will be akin to the last 30 months or so,” he said. “We might occasionally see prices below $3 a gallon and occasionally see prices above $4 a gallon.”

Of course, Kloza said gasoline is a bit like “black magic.”

So who knows where they will be.