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Summer gas prices expected to exceed last year's

NEW YORK — Americans will pay an average of 48 cents a gallon more for gasoline this summer than in 2009, but will nevertheless consume about 0.5 percent more of the automotive fuel after Memorial Day as the economy picks up steam, according to government projections released Tuesday.

The expected 20 percent jump in gasoline prices from last summer led the U.S. government's energy research arm to issue a cautious outlook for gasoline consumption in the 2010 summer driving season, the traditional height of highway travel in the world's largest market for fossil fuels.

A driver with a 15-gallon tank will pay an extra $7.20 to fill up, a cost that could weigh on some drivers' transportation plans, said Neil Gamson, an economist with the Energy Information Administration.

"For a teenager who doesn't have a lot of discretionary income, there's going to be some effect" on driving, Gamson said.

Prices aren't expected to change drastically from current prices, with gasoline seen at about $2.92 a gallon, with spikes up into the $3 range over parts of the country.

Currently, gasoline sells for an average of about $2.83 a gallon nationally, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge report.

In Florida, the average is $2.85, while in the Tampa Bay area, it is $2.80.

All told, Americans will consume about 9.164 million barrels of gasoline per day during the 2010 summer driving season, up from 9.119 million barrels in 2009.

That's an increase of about 0.5 percent, slower than last year's growth rate of 0.8 percent.

Retail price projections reflect higher prices for the refiner acquisition cost of crude oil, expected to average about $79 per barrel this summer compared with the $62-per-barrel average of last summer.

The EIA kept its forecast for world oil consumption this year at an increase of 1.5 million barrels per day in 2010.

It sees an increase of 1.6 million barrels per day in 2011, similar to last month's forecast.

Oil prices "will likely continue to firm and increase slightly in response to the global economic recovery," the EIA said.

Summer gas prices expected to exceed last year's 04/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 8:03am]

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