Gasoline prices jump 9 cents overnight in Houston

Don’t expect a break from high gasoline prices for spring break.

Gasoline prices jumped 9 cents overnight to $3.66 in Houston today, and over the past week, prices at the pump are up 10 cents, according to AAA gas gauge. Gas prices are up 25 cents over the past month.

Texas prices rose 3 cents overnight to $3.62 as the spring break nears. Nationally, the gasoline prices are up 2 cents to $3.77, according to AAA gas gauge. The national average has risen by 29 cents in the past month as analysts warn prices could hit the $4-mark by Memorial Day weekend.

Gasoline prices have been rising since the New Year because of tensions with Iran, three northeast refineries closing and growing global demand have helped push crude oil prices higher.

“To a great extent, you can blame the tens of millions of people who have moved from Third World poverty into something approaching the middle class,” said Tom Kloza, the chief analyst for Oil Price Information Service. “Those folks need fuel for transportation, agriculture and industry.”

As prices rise at the pump, public anger has been directed at three familiar targets: President Barack Obama, oil companies and Wall Street traders.

Kloza said it is unfair to blame any president or oil company for the rising price of gasoline, because they do not set the price of the commodity. But, he said Wall Street might bear some responsibility.

“I believe that the financial asset-ization of oil — the huge expansion of paper markets for crude oil and gasoline futures — is a culprit,” he said.

However, Kloza said the situation provides a double-edge sword.

“The high prices that have been bred by investment and speculation in oil have brought increases in North American production,” he said. “But those high prices also hit people on the margins of society in their wallets.”