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Gas prices inching upward to $3 per gallon

Tara Brown of Commack pumps gas on Jericho

Tara Brown of Commack pumps gas on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown. (January 6, 2010) Credit: Ken Sawchuk

National and local gasoline prices Monday continued marching upward toward $3 per gallon - and Long Island observers said that if the trend continues, consumers can expect at least a season of pain at the pump.

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Monday, the American Automobile Association listed the average gas price in New York at $2.93 for regular unleaded gas, $3.20 for premium and $3.14 for diesel. Those figures are higher than a year ago, when drivers paid $1.89 for regular, $2.07 for premium and $2.85 for diesel.

Robert Sinclair, spokesman for the Long Island branch of AAA, said he's not surprised.

"The high prices since the summer of 2008 and the Cash for Clunkers program woke people up to the fact that we need to be driving lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles," he said. "Here's another reminder that the changes need to be made."

Rising gasoline prices couldn't come at a worse time for motorists, who will see heating bills jump after the worst cold spell in years. Oil prices are now about three times what they were a year ago.

Experts said oil prices are rising because of a robust oil market. The New York Mercantile Exchange lists oil prices jumping 20 percent in the past month.

"There is a long history of tripled oil prices causing consternation among consumers," Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover said of national oil prices in a report Monday. "We are not there, yet, but gasoline prices at more than $3 is certainly an unwelcome sign of consumer distress."

Prices have climbed 8.4 cents a gallon in the past week nationally and are 95.5 cents higher than a year ago. On Long Island, a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $2.944 yesterday morning, up 7 cents from a week ago, according to AAA.

Kevin Beyer, president of Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association and owner of Performance Fuels in Smithtown, said the prices may climb, but that when consumers withdraw from the sticker shock, the prices will retreat, too.

"If we continue to trend up like this, then coming into spring you could see it spike - but I don't think it can sustain this trend," he said.

With The Associated Press

Long Island Gas Prices provided by GasBuddy.com
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