WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- Prices at the gasoline pump could reach record levels during the summer, suppressing consumer demand, the U.S. Energy Department said.
The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration expects gasoline consumption to reach an average of 8.8 million barrels per day by summer, the lowest level since 2001. Prices at the pump, meanwhile, are expected to be 24 cents a gallon higher when compared with last year, the EIA said.
The agency's short-term energy outlook reports an April average price for a gallon of regular unleaded at $3.95 compared with $3.71 for the same time last year.
The EIA said better fuel efficiency for gasoline-powered vehicles and higher prices at the pump would suppress demand during the summer months.
It's expected to cost an extra $6 for an average family to take a 500-mile roundtrip vacation during the summer, the EIA said.
Gasoline was the subject of U.S. political debate this year. Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama blamed his domestic energy policies for high gasoline prices, which topped $4 per gallon early this year.
The EIA said, however, that high prices at the pump were "mostly" the result of activity on the global market.