U.S. gasoline prices continue their climb

Feb. 22, 2013 at 8:13 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. drivers paid a penny more on average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Friday, marking 35 consecutive days of increases, motor group AAA reports.

AAA says U.S. drivers paid, on average, $3.78 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Friday. That marks 35 consecutive days of price increases. Consumers paid $3.31 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline one month ago.

Refinery closures, higher crude oil prices and a switch to summer blends of gasoline are to blame in part for higher gasoline prices. Seasonal prices increases are expected, though 2013 spikes have occurred earlier than in previous years.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama was playing close attention to the issue.

"We'll continue to do everything we can to ensure that consumers are protected and that we are less vulnerable to the ups and downs of the global oil market," Carney said.

There's been no talk of tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Crude oil production in the United States is at an all-time high.

Some U.S. lawmakers have pressed for legislation that would rein in speculators who bet that energy prices will continue to increase. Carney sidestepped the issue, however, saying U.S. energy independence could provide some level of consumer protection.

The U.S. Energy Department said it expects gasoline prices for 2013 to average $3.55 per gallon, down 8 cents compared to last year's estimates.

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