Tampa gas prices up a penny; bigger hike coming soon
TAMPA - Gas prices in the Tampa Bay area stayed almost flat last week, inching up just under a penny per gallon, with regular unleaded averaging $3.513 per gallon compared with $3.504 last week. A year ago, a gallon cost $2.782 in the Bay area, according to AAA Auto Club South. Prices will probably rise more soon, analysts said. For now, a gallon in Florida averages $3.579, compared with $3.563 a week ago, and $2.837 a year ago.The record for a gallon of unleaded in Florida was set on July 16, 2008 at $4.079. Nationally, a gallon averaged $3.578, compared with $3.548 last week, and $2.806 a year ago. Gas prices could make another jump as crude oil shot back to settle Friday at $105.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange - $4.33 more than last week. "After two weeks of reduced oil prices, the price of crude climbed back up after the unrest in Libya and the Middle East show no signs of letting up," said Jessica Brady, spokesperson, AAA Auto Club South. Reports showing the U.S. economy grew more than expected, at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2010, also pushed oil prices higher. "Consumers can expect retail gas prices to gain back any price drops seen in the past couple of weeks and then some," Brady said. "Gas prices already reflect the increase in oil prices, with the national average up 3 cents from last week. As long as the turmoil in the Middle East continues, we can expect to see elevated oil prices, especially when we hit the summer driving season and demand increases."