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Consumer Confidential: Gas prices, car sales, gel-fuel recall

September 1, 2011 | 10:01 am

gas prices
Here's your throat-clearing Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Some news you don't need: Gas prices are surging as we approach the Labor Day weekend. A run-up in oil prices this year, combined with refining problems throughout the U.S., has boosted pump prices. The national average is now $3.629 per gallon (in Los Angeles, it's $3.867). Drivers will pay more for gasoline this Labor Day than in any other year except 2008, when pump prices hit an average of $3.686. Prices are rising despite a drop in U.S. gas purchases. Americans may be using less, but drivers in developing nations are using more. That's pushing fuel prices higher around the world. Just thought you'd want to know.

--Speaking of wheels, General Motors' U.S. sales rose 18% in August, while Chrysler Group and Nissan Motor also exceeded estimates. GM deliveries during the month rose to 218,479 vehicles, from 185,176 a year earlier, the company said. U.S. vehicle sales may have run at a 12.1-million seasonally adjusted annual rate in August, the average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. GM's Cruze benefited from lingering shortages of small cars at Toyota and Honda as their production recovers from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Nissan, whose better supply of parts has buoyed inventory levels above its Japan-based rivals, said its deliveries climbed 19%.

--Heads up, patio types: Nine companies are recalling about 2 million bottles and jugs of the gel fuel used in outdoor decorations known as firepots because of a risk of serious burns. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the gel fuel has been linked to several dozen cases in which people were burned when they couldn't tell whether the flame was out. Pouring more gel on a burning pot can lead to dangerous flares or burns. The companies are: Bird Brain of Ypsilanti, Mich.; Bond Manufacturing of Antioch, Calif.; Sunjel Company of Milwaukee; Fuel Barons of Lake Tahoe, Nev.; Lamplight Farms of Menomonee Falls, Wis.; Luminosities of St. Paul, Minn.; Pacific Decor of Woodinville, Wash.; Real Flame of Racine, Wis.; and Smart Solar USA of Oldsmar, Fla.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: You'll likely pay more at the pump this holiday weekend. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images