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Gasoline prices nearing $3 per gallon

An upswing in crude oil prices, nearing the $90-per-barrel mark, has the average price for retail, regular, unleaded gasoline climbing toward $3 per gallon, according to officials with AAA Auto Club South.

AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report indicated that the price of regular unleaded increased more than 12 cents per gallon over the past week in Georgia. The report revealed that, on Monday, metro Atlantans paid an average of $2.84 per gallon for regular; $3.06 for mid-grade, and $3.19 for premium. That compares to $2.72 per gallon for regular unleaded just a week ago.

AAA Auto Club South Spokeswoman Jessica Brady said poor economic news in November was a driving force behind the jump in crude oil prices, and the eventual increases in retail gasoline prices. Brady said last week's news that U.S. employers added fewer jobs than predicted in November, helped decrease the value of the dollar, and moved the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent — the highest level since April.

That news, she added, increased the appeal of crude oil as a commodity to foreign investors, and pushed crude prices up more than $5, closing Dec. 3, at $89.19 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"It's really hard to predict where things are going," continued Brady. "[But] the November news is very likely to keep the value of the dollar down, and oil prices high ... Gas prices have already shown steep increases going into this week, and will likely continue upwards as a result of the $5-plus increase in the price of oil."

In this first week of December, average prices. nationally, for regular gasoline have already surpassed the forecasted national winter average of $2.84 per gallon, as issued the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Nov. 9.

EIA Economist Neil Gamson said the unexpectedly high retail gas prices are a continuation of an atypical year. "We're experiencing counter-cyclical, or counter-seasonal prices," Gamson said. "The normal seasonal drop in gasoline prices that occurs during the winter is being overwhelmed increasing crude oil prices."

The economist expects that, within the next two weeks, half the crude oil price hike already experienced will be passed along to consumers at the pump.

"The cold weather in Europe, and here [in the U.S.] is increasing demand for heating oil, which also will pull up petroleum demand," he added.