Valluvan Vaithilingam, an employee at a Hess Gas Station in...

Valluvan Vaithilingam, an employee at a Hess Gas Station in Long Beach, raises the prices for gas at each pump. Credit: Newsday/Photo by Danielle Finkelstein

More gas stations have exceeded the $3-a-gallon threshold for regular grade, but, for now at least, prices generally have stabilized, with the Long Island average rising by less than a penny per gallon over the past week.

At least one analyst, though, still predicts higher prices by early summer - and so does the federal government. "We're probably looking at another 20 cents higher," said Stephen Schork, editor of The Schork Report, an energy industry newsletter.

Regular averaged $3.071 a gallon Wednesday on Long Island, according to a survey of stations done for the AAA. That's 12.6 cents higher than last month and 85.4 cents higher than a year ago.

Before April, the last time the average was over $3, prices were on the way down - from the record high of $4.346 on July 8, 2008, headed toward a bottom of under $2 that December.

Higher crude prices are the main reason for the increase and they, in turn, result in part from increased demand but also from investors buying oil in anticipation of a future increase in demand as the world economy recovers from recession. Investors with foreign currency, in particular, are taking advantage of a weaker dollar, which empowers them to buy more oil, which is priced in dollars.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday in its weekly fuels update that gasoline supplies fell slightly last week from the week before, by 1.2 million barrels to 223.7 million, while demand rose slightly, by 138,000 barrels a day to 9.29 million a day.

The energy department now forecasts gas will average 48 cents a gallon higher this summer than last.

"Average U.S. pump prices for regular gasoline are likely to exceed $3 per gallon at times during the driving season, and already exceed $3 per gallon in some areas," the department said.

The current national average for regular unleaded is $2.869, according to the AAA.

Says Schork, "We've seen now demand trending higher for the past 10 weeks. I think partly it is certainly in response to an improving economy."

Wednesday, longislandgasprices.com, which compiles motorist reports, listed prices as high as $3.19 a gallon for regular at 10 stations in Nassau and Suffolk and no lower than $2.91 at a station in Baldwin.

Prices on Long Island

Gallon of gasoline

(average for regular)

Yesterday: $3.071

Week ago: $3.015

Year Ago: $2.217

Source: AAA

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Gallon of Heating Oil

(average, full service dealers)

Monday April 26: $3.157

Week before: $3.153

Year earlier: $2.534

Source: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

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