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Citrus County will ring in 2013 with higher prices at the pump and the likelihood of even higher gas prices as the year goes on.
While gasoline prices declined from November through the holiday shopping season, prices apparently bottomed out a day or two before Christmas and are inching up as the year comes to an end.
And according to GasBuddy.com, it has become an annual trend, with prices rising between Christmas and mid-January. It is a trend the American Petroleum Institute attributes to high demand caused by holiday driving.
Aside from the recent gas price increase, the average annual pump price makes 2012 a record-breaking year. AAA reports this year’s average for a gallon of regular retail gasoline is $3.61, 10 cents more than the annual average in 2011. Price trends were also off the norm this year, with gas prices peaking in April and hitting bottom during the first week of July.
Area gas prices rebounded in August, creeping up to nearly $4 a gallon in early September. Prices started a downward trend in mid- October that continued except for a slight increase around Thanksgiving. Christmas-weekend travelers found prices as low as $3.07 for regular at State Road 44 and Interstate 75.
“Gas prices are doing exactly what was expected, closing out the year on an upswing,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman, the Auto Club Group. “Motorists could very likely see pump prices increase into mid-January before starting to retreat again. This year, much like 2011, was a volatile year for both oil and gas prices, with some unexpected trends, and next year could be very similar.”
On Thursday, a barrel of oil was trading around $90 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. “This is significant regardless of what’s driving it,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com. “We’ve seen wholesale prices have increased this week in crude oil, which may be tied to the nervousness in the financial markets over the fiscal cliff.”
He cited another statistic that could be troubling to consumers. Over the past eight years, gasoline price movement from the end of the year to the peak price in the new year has averaged 90 cents a gallon. So if Citrus County prices average $3.30 a gallon on Dec. 31, in 2013 local drivers could see a high of $4.20 a gallon.
“It’s an interesting statistic that seems to hold up,” Laskoski said, though 2011 was an exception. He speculated if the country goes off the fiscal cliff, suggesting the country would go deeper into recession, gas prices could drop on lower demand.
Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.