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New year breaks high gas price record
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As 2012 begins, gasoline prices are rising.

In a week, prices have surged 5.6 cents per gallon locally – an increase which pales in comparison to the 31.8 cent per gallon year-over-year increase drivers face.

“Average gasoline prices are moving up as we enter the new year, a trend that has held since 2008,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for gas price tracking website “The biggest problem with that trend holding true this year is that we're starting 2012 about 20-cents per gallon higher than 2011, breaking yet another high price record and setting up an ugly year for motorists.”

According to, early indicators point to record setting gas prices in 2012. In some areas, gasoline could rise as high as $5 per gallon in worst case scenarios.

Prices usually peak toward the end of spring, or early summer. In three of the last seven years, the spread between starting yearly prices and peak prices have exceeded $1 per gallon, and only once has the spread been below 82 cents per gallon.

Though analysts emphasize past performance does not indicate future prices, if the trend holds true Stanislaus County drivers can expect to pay in the mid-$4 per gallon range this summer. That's near the area's all-time record peak of $4.53 per gallon on June 18, 2008.

Already, the price of oil is rising in 2012. As stock markets reopened Tuesday, crude oil prices jumped more than 4 percent in markets worldwide.

According to experts including Avery Ash, AAA manager of federal relations, concerns regarding Iran have driven recent increases.

“The Iranian Navy is conducting exercises in the Straits of Hormuz, an important strategic route that delivers oil to the U.S., Asia, and Western Europe,” Ash said. “Iran is threatening activity that could disrupt commercial maritime interests in the area as a response to the possibility of economic sanctions being placed upon Iran’s oil exports. About one-third of all global oil passes through the narrow channel of water which sits between Iran and Oman.”

Other upward pressures include a weak U.S. dollar, ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq, and an expiring 45 cent per gallon federal credit on ethanol – mixed in small percentages with the gasoline in most pumps.

Nationwide, gasoline prices have seen some relief, falling 4.1 cents per gallon in the last month to an average of $3.25 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. Despite the recent decline, that price is still 20.9 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.

Gasoline averages $3.63 in California, up 33 cents per gallon since the first day of 2011 and 7.4 cents per gallon in a week.

A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline now averages $3.53 in the Stanislaus County area. It can be found as inexpensively as $3.35 per gallon in Turlock – among the lowest rates in the state.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.