Motorists in several parts of the country, notably including Southern California, have seen fuel prices surge past the $4 mark, with many industry observers predicting the country could soon see costs surge past the record figures set during the mid-2008 fuel scare.
With the situation only getting worse in Libya, one of the world’s largest sources of petroleum, analysts are now speculating not just if, but when pump prices in the U.S. could tip the $5 mark. Economists are also worrying what the rapid rise might mean to an American economy that still seems fragile after one of the worst recessions in more than half a century.
As of Friday, the Lundberg Survey found that U.S. fuel prices had risen 32.7 cents over the previous two weeks, to an average of $3.51 a gallon for self-serve regular. That’s the biggest jump the American market has experienced since a 38-cent run-up between August and September 2005, according to the Lundberg Survey, which follows fuel prices in the continental U.S. That prior record was the result of the damage done to Gulf Coast refineries by Hurricane Katrina.
“This time around, the damage comes not from nature but from people,” said Trilby Lundberg, referring to the Libyan crisis and the broader uncertainty about Mideast oil supplies as the democracy battle rages across northern Africa.