Gasoline Average Price Tops $3.50 Nationwide

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The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose past $3.50 a gallon on Thursday for the first time since last September. Thursday is also the 33rd of the past 34 days to have seen a rise in the price of gasoline.

While the price of a gallon of gasoline is expected to continue rising for the next few weeks, the expected high of $3.75 a gallon is below last year’s high price of $3.79 a gallon, according to AAA. The most common price for a gallon of gas nationwide is $3.599, with about 17% of stations selling gas for more than $3.75 a gallon and 14% selling gasoline for less than $3.25 a gallon.

The price of premium gasoline has risen to more than $4 a gallon in eight states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin. Michigan and Pennsylvania are just pennies short. These 10 states account for about a third of the total U.S. population.

Gasoline prices typically rise in the late winter and early spring as refineries make the switch from cheaper winter fuel to more expensive summer fuel. The turnaround has had less impact this year, and the unusually cold weather has tamped down demand for gasoline, helping keep prices in check. Last year’s high price was set in February, following the surprise closing of two East Coast refineries, and prices fell slowly and stabilized in March.

High gasoline prices force many consumers to make spending choices that favor gasoline ahead of other items. The higher the price, the more pronounced the effect, which drains spending on consumer goods and slows down the economic recovery.