U.S. appears unfazed as gasoline prices rise towards $3 a gallon

A motorist pumps petrol at station.
A motorist pumps petrol at station. Associated Press

The prospect of $3 gasoline, which last appeared in 2008, is staring at us again.

This time around, that price could stick.

"We may be looking at the new normal," said James Williams, an analyst for WTRG Economics.

The national average Tuesday for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.90, according to AAA. In the Kansas City area it's $2.80 on the Kansas side and $2.70 in Missouri, nearly double what it was at the end of 2008. That’s when gas prices collapsed after their record run-up above $4 a gallon.

Apart from that summer 2008 spike, gasoline prices haven't been this high since the 1980s, when adjusted for inflation. The improving economy and rising profit margins for oil refineries are expected to keep upward pressure on fuel prices, perhaps for years.

Vacations this summer are all but certain to cost more, with gas prices 70 cents higher than a year ago. A road trip to Washington, D.C., could cost an extra $100. Compared with the end of 2008, the average household is now spending an extra $135 a month for fuel.

But unlike previous periods when gas prices approached $3, some motorists don’t appear as concerned.

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