March 1 (UPI) -- On average, motorists in the United States may be paying the highest price for gasoline since the summer of 2015, motor club AAA reported Thursday.
AAA lists a national average retail price of $2.54 for a gallon of regular unleaded on Thursday, an increase of 1 cent from yesterday, but 6 cents lower than one month ago. Gasoline prices typically dip during winter months, but strong demand and higher oil prices means this year is anything but normal.
Prices have eased somewhat nationally, but the relief isn't likely to last very long. AAA forecasts an average national high during the spring of $2.70 per gallon, which would be the highest national average since summer 2015 when prices topped $2.80 per gallon.
Jeanette Casselano, a spokeswoman for the motor club, said consumers may be faced with decisions on what to spend their extra cash on this year.
"There is tremendous volatility in the oil and gasoline market," she said in a statement. "Crude oil is selling at high prices compared to previous years and domestic gasoline demand has been high most of the winter among the factors all driving gas prices up and draining consumers' wallets."
The average price for a gallon of gas on this date last year was $2.31 and the price of oil was about $10 per barrel less than what it is today. Crude oil prices started rebounding from historic lows last year, putting tailwinds behind the price at the pump.
Crude oil prices are increasing in response to a decision from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cap production levels in order to erase a glut of oil on the market and because of geopolitical tensions.
By April of last year, retail price group GasBuddy said the price of oil would have to be closer to $75 per barrel and the national average closer to $3 per gallon before it starts to have an impact on the U.S. economy.
In February, President Donald Trump floated the idea of raising the federal gasoline tax during talks earlier this week in a bipartisan meeting with Congress. The proposal comes on the heels of an expansive infrastructure plan, an ambitious budget bill and tax reforms that many analysts said would add to a mounting federal deficit.
The fuel tax has the support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which added its proposal for a 25 cent per gallon increase ahead of Trump's announcement on infrastructure.
Consumer gasoline prices on average went from contraction in December of 0.8 percent to an increase of 5.7 percent in January.