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Gasoline prices at historic highs for this time of year

October 24, 2011 | 10:02 am

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The new normal for gasoline prices continues to drain the incomes of American consumers.

Over the past week, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. stabilized, down just 1.1 cents to $3.451 a gallon, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. But that's 22% higher than the old record for this week of the year, which was an average of $2.823 a gallon set in 2007.

The financial burden in California is higher. Although the state's average for a gallon of regular gasoline was unchanged over the past week, at $3.853, that was 22.6% higher than the old record for this time of year -- $3.143 a gallon, first set in 2007 and repeated in 2010.

With the nation still poised to shatter the old record for gasoline spending of $449 billion in 2008 by shelling out as much as $491 billion this year, Phil Flynn, an analyst for PFGBest Research in Chicago, said, "It's like we just can't ever get a break. This has really been a bad year for fuel prices."

There has been some hope that the end of hostilities in Libya might quickly bring down world oil prices, said GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan, "but I just don't see it happening."

Oil was rising early Monday based on hope that a solution to the European debt crisis was near. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil futures for oil for December delivery were up 46 cents to $87.86 a barrel. On the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil rose 76 cents to $110.32 a barrel.

Analysts say that world demand for refined fuels is driving U.S. gasoline prices, with the U.S. exporting record amounts of fuel. In addition, U.S. refineries are processing more diesel than usual instead of gasoline to meet that global demand.

ALSO:

Fuel costs driving whole price rise

Californians are burning less gasoline

California first to adopt cap and trade

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: U.S. oil refineries are processing more diesel and less gasoline to meet rising global demand, helping to keep U.S. gas prices at record highs for this time of year. Credit: Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times

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