The average U.S. price of gasoline jumped 18 cents a gallon in the past two weeks due to rising costs of crude oil and related concerns about tensions in the Middle East, although supplies of fuel remained plentiful in most of the country, according to the nationwide Lundberg Survey.
The national average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $3.69 on February 24, according to the nationwide survey of gasoline stations in the continental United States.
The sting to drivers' pocketbooks follows a rise of almost 12 cents per gallon seen in the previous survey, which covered the two weeks that ended February 10.
"Fears about a possible hit to oil supplies from the Middle East are causing turmoil and confusion," survey editor Trilby Lundberg said in an interview.
Concerns center largely around Iran's nuclear program and the possibility that Iran could block shipping in the Strait of Hormuz if the nation's nuclear facilities were attacked by Israel, she said.
The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose $11.10 per barrel in the past two weeks to $109.77 on Friday, she said,
fueled by those concerns as well as a weakening of some national currencies that spurred some investors toward crude oil.
"If these (Mideast) fears become more fervent, on either a real or a perceived basis, then crude oil prices could jump again," and prod gasoline prices higher, she said.
In any case, Lundberg said U.S. gasoline prices will likely rise at least a few cents per gallon in coming weeks because earlier increases in the cost of crude had not yet fully reached the pump.
At $4.24 a gallon, San Diego had the highest average price for regular unleaded gasoline on February 24, while the lowest price was $3.07 a gallon in Denver.
(Reporting By Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Diane Craft)