U.S. gas prices in recent months have been on a steady climb and the last week in February was no exception: The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline jumped by more than 3 cents to $3.78, according to AAA. That's more than 4 cents higher than the national average a month ago and more than 8 cents higher than a year ago when it was $3.70.
Recent weeks have seen some of the most dramatic gas-price increases in years, with a 33-day stretch measured earlier this month yielding a 14 percent spike; it was the longest such streak since the price increased 44 cents in as many days in spring 2011, according to AAA.
"This year's run-up is not only larger and faster than recent years but is beginning earlier," AAA said in a statement.
AAA said one reason for the earlier price increase is a trend of U.S. refineries performing seasonal maintenance and switching over to summer-blend gas production earlier in the year. As refineries go offline, regional supplies can dwindle, squeezing supply.
"While the peak price this spring may approach the 2011 and 2012 highs, AAA continues to expect the high to be lower than both years," AAA said.
The largest increase on record was between Aug. 5 and Sept. 4, 2005, when prices jumped 75 percent in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.