Gas prices highest in 17 months

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Prices at the gas pump are at their highest in almost a year and a half.

Prices for gasoline lingered at a 17-month high Monday following a steady climb in recent weeks.

Gwinnett residents were paying an average of $2.73 for a gallon of regular unleaded, while nationwide, average retail prices remained flat at $2.82 a gallon, the highest since October 2008. Prices are up 18.6 cents in the past month, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

That matched the national average in the Energy Information Administration's weekly report, up 3 cents from a week ago and 86 cents above a year ago. California had the highest average pump price -- $3.09 a gallon -- and the Gulf Coast region was the lowest at $2.69 a gallon.

Many experts and the EIA think average gasoline prices will hit $3 or more this spring or summer before easing later in the year. More expensive blends to cut pollution in the warmer months and more drivers on the road should keep pump prices up.

The price rise comes as the economy continues its slow recovery from the Great Recession and deals with stubbornly high unemployment.

At $3 per gallon, a typical motorist using 50 gallons of gasoline a month will spend $150 on fuel. A year ago, prices were at $2 a gallon.

Pump prices could ease a couple of pennies later this week, since the monthlong rally in oil prices stalled at the end of last week and crude prices gained little ground Monday. The April contract, which expired Monday, rose 57 cents to settle at $81.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Most of the trading moved to the May contract, which added 63 cents to settle at $81.60.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.