U.S. drivers paying highest gas prices so far in 2009

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:05pm EDT

A Miami resident looks at the price of gasoline in a file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A Miami resident looks at the price of gasoline in a file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. drivers paid the highest prices so far this year to fill-up at the pump, as the average cost for gasoline increased almost a penny over the last week to $2.06 a gallon, the Energy Department said on Monday.

The national price for regular unleaded rose 0.8 cent to the highest level in five months, but it is still down $1.45 from a year ago, the department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly survey of service stations.

Pump prices are expected to rise another 20 cents for this summer, with drivers expected to pay an average $2.23 a gallon for the season, according to the EIA's forecast.

That's much cheaper than the record $4.11 hit last July or last summer's average pump price of $3.81 a gallon.

Gasoline prices will not be as high this summer because the weak economy will dampen fuel use and there will be strong gasoline inventories available to help meet demand.

The EIA's survey found the West Coast had the most expensive gasoline at $2.28 a gallon, up 0.4 cent from last week. Los Angeles had the highest city price at $2.34, down 1 cent.

The Gulf Coast states had the lowest regional price at $1.97 a gallon, up half a penny. Houston had the cheapest city pump price at $1.94, up 1.4 cents.

The agency also reported gasoline prices were up 1.5 cents at $2.32 in San Francisco; up 0.7 cent at $2.30 in Seattle; down 1.1 cents at $2.16 in Miami; down 0.4 cent at $2.14 in Chicago; up 2.5 cents at $2.03 in New York City; up 3.9 cents at $2 in Boston and down 2.3 cents at $1.97 in Cleveland.

Separately, the average price for diesel fuel fell almost a penny to $2.22 a gallon, down $1.92 from a year ago, and the first decline in five weeks, the EIA said.

The New England states again had the most expensive diesel at $2.40 a gallon, down 1.7 cents. The Midwest region had the cheapest diesel fuel at $2.17, down 0.9 cent.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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