For the first time since late April, the average price of gasoline in the country is higher than it was a year ago.
Drivers now are paying an average of $3.66 per gallon, a penny more than on this day last year. The last time that happened was April 23, according to auto club AAA. Gas is up 10 percent from July 1, and experts say pump prices could keep rising through Labor Day.
Some drivers, like those in the Midwest and on the West Coast, are feeling a bigger pinch. Prices spiked about 40 cents per gallon last week in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois because of refinery and pipeline problems. This week, drivers in California, Oregon and Washington are watching pump prices jump after a partial outage at a big Chevron refinery.
Gas prices already had been steadily advancing across the country in line with an increase in oil.
On Thursday, 19 states have average prices above what they were on this date a year ago, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. In Florida, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $3.62, 4 cents below what it was a year ago.
Kloza sees more increases ahead.
"Trends indicate that more than half of the country may see year-on-year increases" by mid August, he said.
Kloza does expect nationwide gas prices to fall after Labor Day. In many cities, prices should drop below $3.50, while in a few cities gas could fall below $3 per gallon, he said.
Californians, however, will be happy if gas stays below $4. Chevron is producing gasoline and other fuels at a reduced capacity at its oil refinery near San Francisco after a fire Monday. The refinery was producing about 16 percent of the West Coast's daily gasoline consumption, Kloza said.
Average gas prices in California were $3.9274 per gallon Thursday, up 7.4 cents since Monday, AAA spokesman Michael Green said
Analysts believe other refineries could make up some of Chevron's lost production, helping to curb price hikes.
Meanwhile, benchmark oil rose 1 cent to $93.36 per barrel in New York on Thursday.