TAMPA — Gas prices rose by 12 cents last week in the Tampa Bay area, part of a national trend that AAA blames on the weak dollar.
It's not demand that's driving the increase, said AAA spokesman Gregg Laskoski. Demand is up, but only by 1.1 percent.
When the dollar is weak, investors put their money into commodities, such as crude oil, which pushes up gas prices.
In the past week, crude oil prices rose by $7 a barrel, bringing the total price to $78.53 a barrel, according to AAA's weekly fuel brief.
"That's the highest price we've seen all year," Laskoski said. "With crude oil spiking to that level, it's not because consumers are doing anything different."
U.S. oil refineries are meeting consumer demand while operating at a rate of about 80 percent — the lowest output rate since hurricanes disrupted refineries in September 2008, AAA reports.
Still, the national average price for unleaded regular gasoline jumped by about 8 cents in the past week —now about $2.56 per gallon. Florida's average is $2.55, up from $2.43 last week. Tampa Bay's average price is now $2.49.
Laskoski said he's not sure whether those numbers will keep going up.
It's hard to predict how much more the dollar will weaken. There are so many factors — "dozens and perhaps more," Laskoski said — involved in the rise and fall of the dollar's value against other currencies. It's not easy to figure out how investors will speculate, he added.
Still, he said it doesn't seem that the price of crude oil could increase any more while supply remains high. But it's tough to say for sure.
"I don't know what to expect," Laskoski said.
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