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AAA officials watching impact of Egyptian protests

Officials with AAA Auto Club South are monitoring the unrest in Egypt to see whether events in the North African nation will impact crude oil supply from the region.

"While Egypt isn't a major player in the oil market, Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter, and if oil production is affected we can expect oil prices to rise," said AAA Auto Club South Spokeswoman Jessica Brady. "While there is no immediate disturbance, the protests in Egypt will be closely watched."

The national average price of regular unleaded gas increased 1-cent to $3.10 per gallon Tuesday, following a 2-cent decline over the previous week, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Brady said she expects gas prices to remain relatively unchanged over the coming days, barring unforeseen disturbances in Egypt and the Middle East.

"We're still watching what's going on with the protests," she said. "The main concern is what could happen if the Suez Canal closed."

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and sees between one million- and two million barrels of oil transported daily from Saudi Arabia, noted Brady.

The AAA Spokeswoman said another major concern for energy industry analysts is whether protests in Egypt could spread into Saudi Arabia, and disrupt oil production.

"It's likely we can see prices right where they are for the next couple of weeks," she added. "Reserves are plentiful in both the U.S. and in developed countries."

Brady acknowledged the ample supply has played a role in knocking down gas prices around the state.

AAA reported Georgia averages, and metro Atlanta averages, remain below the national median for gas prices. Georgians paid $2.98 per gallon, on average, for regular unleaded gas Tuesday — 4-cents less per gallon than the week prior, and the same as they paid on Jan. 1.

The report stated consumers around the state started this month paying about 44-cents more than they paid at the start of last February, which was an average of $2.54 per gallon of regular unleaded gas.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, released in January, projects regular unleaded gas will sale at $3.17 per gallon, on average nationwide, this year. The projection puts the average at 39 cents per gallon higher than last year. The administration also forecasts average gas prices will rise to $3.29 per gallon for 2012.