Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Gasoline prices have on average gained 3 cents on the week, rising to $2.91 per gallon, despite moves to a cheaper winter blend -- and the current levels, highest for a fall period in four years, are likely to remain "unseasonably expensive" through the end of the year, the AAA reported.
Experts say fall gas prices have not been this high since 2014, and they don't see them decreasing any time soon as crude oil is selling about $25 more per barrel than at this time last year and market analysts expecting the high price of a barrel of oil to stay that way.
"The September switch-over to winter-blend gasoline ushered in cheaper gas prices compared to the summer, but that drop was short lived," Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson, said in a note.
"That means fall and year-end prices are going to be unseasonably expensive," the report added.
The biggest week-on-week gains were in Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, California and Indiana with average increases between 9 cents per gallon and 7 cents per gallon. Meantime, fuel stations in New Jersey, Georgia and Washington, D.C., saw gains by 6 cents per gallon.
The gains in the Great Lakes and Central region could be justified by regional refinery maintenance -- which decreases production -- and inventories at one of the lowest levels for the region this year. However, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions are seeing higher price levels despite a gasoline inventory buildup, the AAA said.
Despite the gain in Louisiana, the South and Southeast region carries the top six cheapest gas prices in the country, but still 25% above the same period a year ago.
States in the Rockies saw either small declines or flat levels compared with a week earlier. In the West Coast, where prices are the highest in the country, fuel costs to motorists rose despite inventory buildups.
Hawaii, where a gallon costs on average $3.84, and California, at $3.80 per gallon on average, are the nation's most expensive fuel markets.
The AAA mentioned high crude oil prices as the key factor leading to higher gasoline costs. It attributed that to volatility linked to announced U.S. sanctions against Iran, a major exporter, and also to concerns about a possible collapse of the economy of Venezuela, another key producer.
"Crude oil accounts for half of the retail pump price and crude is selling at some of the highest price points in four years," Castellano said.
WTI crude futures were trading Tuesday morning at $74.81/barrel compared to $50.92/barrel a year ago.
Meantime, Patrick DeHaan, analyst at GasBuddyGuy, estimated on Saturday that U.S. motorists are spending "$175 million more on gasoline today alone versus a year ago today."