Local gas prices average a penny over $3

While state and national averages have steadily increased this winter, average gas prices in metro Atlanta remain flat at $3.01 per gallon for regular unleaded, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

"Looking in the short term, I think we're going to see gas prices stay right where they are," said AAA Auto Club South Spokeswoman Jessica Brady.

"Retail gas prices made minimal increases last week and are expected to make slight gains again this week," she continued. "It's likely crude oil will trade between $85 and $95 a barrel, for the remainder of the month, as China is trying to slow demand growth in the country."

Looking back, however, AAA reports indicated that, in metro Atlanta on Tuesday, the average price for regular unleaded gas is nearly 37cents higher than at the same time a year ago. For premium gas, prices are 41cents higher.

Brady said the price of crude oil moved slightly higher last week, after the Trans Alaska pipeline was forced to shut down, reportedly dues to a leak.

That leak has been fixed, she said, noting that the temporary shutdown caused crude oil prices to increase $3.51, to settle at $91.54 a barrel, Jan. 14, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that the average per-barrel price for crude oil will be $93 in 2011, about $14 higher than last year. The energy administration believes average prices could increase to $99 per barrel the end of 2012, assuming continued economic growth in the U.S.

EIA also reported a slight probability that the national average retail price for regular gasoline could exceed $3.50 per gallon this coming summer, and an even slighter probability that it could exceed $4 per gallon in August and September.

For the consumer, slow and steady increases in gas prices eventually might result in higher prices for other products, according to Brady.

"We'll probably see other costs go up," she explained. "It's a snowball effect. We can see more in terms of having to ship goods. Many airlines have already added an additional fuel surcharge."