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By the numbers

Regular gas per gallon average prices on Friday:

$3.84 – California

$3.55 – Connecticut

$3.47 – Florida

$3.43 – Maine

$3.40 – Vermont

$3.30 – New Hampshire

Gas pains

On the eve of school spring vacation, stormy weather thousands of miles away in Mexico and sabotage in Nigeria this week are creating pain at the pumps for American drivers.

Don’t expect prices to decrease anytime soon amid higher crude oil prices, rising world oil consumption, and low production capacity.

Prices could go as high as $4 a gallon here in Maine. California is already there.

This week, San Francisco set that state’s all-time highest average price at $3.966, up 6 cents since last week, according to a report Friday in the Central Valley Business Times of Los Angeles.

“The oil price was trading just over $114.50 a barrel today on news that Mexico had shut down as many as four oil shipping ports due to bad weather, and that Nigerian oil production had been disrupted over the weekend by a fire attributed to sabotage,” Matthew C. McKenzie, vice president of marketing and public affairs for the American Automobile Association, said Friday by phone in Portland.

Nigeria and Mexico are both major suppliers to U.S. refineries.

“Oil is just so tight now that with any snafu (or) unrest … it will just cause prices to climb higher and higher,” he said. “It’s the perfect storm.” However, he added, it’s unclear just how significant the Mexico and Nigeria events are in terms of oil lost to the world market.

“U.S. oil inventories have been relatively healthy of late, but the supply situation globally is said to be tight,” McKenzie said.

Nationwide this spring, regular gasoline prices are projected to peak at about $3.60 per gallon, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in Washington, D.C.

In the past two weeks – from Farmington to Bethel – self-serve regular gas increased from $3.36 a gallon to Friday’s $3.52 a gallon.

Prices went up a dime this week alone.

Regular gas on Friday at two Route 2 stations less than a mile apart in Rumford ranged from $3.42 at Mountain Valley Variety to $3.51 at Judy’s Variety Gulf station. Four other gas stations in between climbed a nickel within a few hours Thursday to $3.47 a gallon.

McKenzie said Friday’s nationwide average price of self-serve regular gas was $3.386 per gallon, which is 52.9 cents higher than a year ago on the same day. It’s also a new record high for gasoline prices in the nation.

“Right now, the price of oil is flirting with $115 a barrel, but if it starts hitting $120 to $125 a barrel, $4 a gallon would not be out of the question,” McKenzie said.

A year ago at this time, regular gas in Maine was $2.84 a gallon. As of Friday, that average was $3.43.

According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. consumption of liquid fuels and other petroleum is expected to drop this year by about 85,000 barrels a day due to the economic slowdown and high petroleum prices. Conversely, world oil consumption is expected to grow by 1.2 million barrels per day.

“It is still prudent to remember the threat of a major disruption in oil shipping due to man-made or natural causes, or a significant failure in the refining or gasoline distribution system in the United States has the potential to send prices soaring even beyond today’s extremely elevated levels,” McKenzie said.


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