NEW YORK (AP) — Gasoline prices have never been higher this time of the year.
At $3.53 a gallon, prices are already up 25 cents since Jan. 1. And experts say they could reach a record $4.25 a gallon by late April.
“You’re going to see a lot more staycations this year,” says Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. “When the price gets anywhere near $4, you really see people react.”
The surge in gas prices follows an increase in the price of oil, and higher gas prices could hurt consumer spending and curtail the recent improvement in the U.S. economy.
High oil and gas prices now set the stage for even sharper increases at the pump because gas typically rises in March and April. The Oil Price Information Service predicts that gasoline could peak at $4.25 a gallon by the end of April. That would top the record of $4.11 in July 2008.
High gas prices put a strain on many people’s budgets.
Gary Goodman commutes into Manhattan from Edgewater, N.J., because gas, tolls and parking make the cost of driving prohibitive.
Goodman, an accountant, commutes by bus. He uses his car mostly for trips to the grocery store or for occasional nights out. He says he has no choice but to eat the higher gas costs.
“I already drive as little as possible,” he says.
Gas prices are already an issue in the presidential campaign. Republican candidate Newt Gingrich spoke several times this week about opening up more federal land to oil and gas drilling as a path toward U.S. energy independence, and lower pump prices.
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(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)