WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. national average for gas prices could top out at about $4 a gallon, with more drivers than ever paying as much as $5 a gallon, analysts said.
The nine-month high spike in crude oil prices has driven gasoline prices to a record February high of $3.65 a gallon, up 42 cents from a year ago, USA Today reported Friday. Prices are spiking due to lower refining capacity, Middle East tension and commodity speculation, the newspaper said.
"I don't foresee any situation -- even a worsening crisis in Iran -- that results in $5 a gallon gas nationally," said Patrick DeHaan of price-tracker gasbuddy.com. "You're going to see hot spots … that push prices toward $5, but the national range will be $3.75 to $4.15. We don't see a scenario for a national average higher than that for any length of time."
President Barack Obama said Thursday at the University of Miami there is no quick fix for the rising costs and said the Republican plan for $2 a gallon gas was typical election-year politics.
"Step one is to drill, and step two is to drill, and step three is to keep drilling," he said. "The American people aren't stupid. They know that's not a plan, especially since we're already drilling. That's a bumper sticker."
In reaction to rising prices, consumption of gas fell 1.4 percent to 18 million gallons a day, the lowest since April 1997, the Energy Department said.
April delivery West Texas Intermediate crude priced on the New York Mercantile Exchange added 62 cents overnight to reach $109.45 per barrel.