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Will pump price plateau or rise?

BY SCOTT SHENK

The cost of a gallon of gas has fallen about eight cents in the past month, but drivers are still paying big-time at the pump.

 AAA said in its weekly gas watch report that the national average price of gas at the start of 2013 was $3.29 a gallon, which set an all-time high to open a new year.

 And that’s on the heels of a year that set an all-time high for the national average price of gas at $3.60 a gallon.

 Locally, a gallon of regular is currently selling for an average of $3.26, three cents higher than the same time a year ago, according to AAA.

 Price-wise, last year also got off to a rough start, and it kept getting worse.

 In 2012, national gas prices opened at $3.28 a gallon, which was then a record, according to AAA. That marked quite a jump from the start of 2011, when the national average price for a gallon was $2.65.

 In the first two weeks of 2012, gas prices jumped 11 cents nationally.

 By March, prices had really spiked, with at least one Fredericksburg-area gas station topping the $4-a-gallon mark.

 The highest national price for a gallon of gas in 2012 was $3.94. In 2011, the top national price was $3.99. The all-time high for a gallon of gas is $4.11, which was set in July 2008.

 The future looks a bit better, though.

 AAA Mid-Atlantic “believes it is unlikely any short-term gas price increases would match those seen this time last year,” spokeswoman Martha Meade said this week in the gas watch release.

 GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan echoed the short-term sentiment in his blog. He wrote that gas prices typically spike between Christmas and Jan. 15, “but so far this year, we’ve seen virtually no change in the national average.”

Meade said weak demand, economic concerns and domestic crude oil production should help keep prices steady early on this year.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, this year overall might be better than 2012, according to experts, who predict a lower average price at the pump for 2013.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts average national gas prices of $3.43 a gallon this year, which would be 17 cents less than 2012.

Scott Shenk:  540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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