Gasoline prices skyrocket over the spring break weekend

Gasoline prices skyrocketed over the weekend in Houston as thousands of Texans took to the roads for the spring break holiday.

Houston drivers were paying on average $3.56 on Thursday, but prices jumped 17 cents over the weekend to $3.73, marking the highest average gasoline price in Texas. Drivers are now paying 22 cents more than they were a month ago.

The national average rose a meager 3 cents over the weekend to $3.80.

“With a likely peak in gasoline prices still as much as two or more months away, the national average for a gallon of gasoline has already hit the bottom of the range that we projected,” said Patrick DeHaan, a analyst.

DeHaan said the national average should slow as more refineries start and finish maintenance at refineries, but prices could spike if unexpected problems arise.

Analysts have warned gasoline prices are likely to top $4 by the Memorial Day weekend as tensions with Iran and three closing northeast refineries have caused higher crude oil prices. The rising prices at the pump have sparked national debate on ways to lower the price of gasoline.

Public anger has been directed at three familiar targets: President Barack Obama, oil companies and Wall Street traders.

Tom Kloza, chief analyst for Oil Price Information Services, 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 traders 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 is also good for American investment and production.

“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.”