By Johnny Jackson
After a spring of relatively low gas prices, motorists are seeing a spike in the cost of filling their tanks.
Gas prices nationwide now average above $2 per gallon, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
Nationwide, the average price of regular unleaded gas rose by more than 14 cents over the past week, from $2.07 to $2.22 per gallon, according to AAA. Prices in Georgia climbed 20 cents to $2.10 over the past week.
AAA reported metro Atlantans are seeing summer-like prices at $2.15 per gallon of regular unleaded gas, up from $1.91 a month ago.
AAA Auto Club South officials attribute the rise to the spike in crude oil prices. Crude oil prices closed Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) at $58.63 per barrel, the highest price so far this year.
However, for about a six-week period this spring, AAA reported crude oil trading between roughly $50 and $52 per barrel.
Nationally, wholesale prices have also hit year-long highs, according to Retail Fuel Watch, an oil industry weekly published by the Oil Price Information Service.
"Notwithstanding a recent run-up in wholesale prices, retail price increases defy the fundamentals that tell us we still have weak demand, a surplus of oil, and healthy output from refineries," said Gregg Laskoski, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South. "But some analysts believe that news last week from the U.S. Department of Labor reporting a decline in unemployment benefit claims points to emerging recovery and growing demand for fuel in the near term."
Laskoski said he expects to see gas prices steadily increase this summer as travel season gets under way, but he does not expect prices to top the $3-per-gallon mark for regular unleaded gas.
With the exception of a major event, he said the record $4-plus for a gallon of fuel should not be realized this year.