State gas prices hit all-time high - As summer nears, 'it's probably going to keep increasing'


Olympia, WA - 4/7/05 - Washington's gas prices yesterday hit an average all-time high of $2.319 per gallon for self-serve regular unleaded, and some drivers -- faced with tabs of $30 or more for a fill-up -- were left fuming.

"Look at that! $2.58 for unleaded!" exclaimed Josh Dallyn, 24, as he filled his 2001 PT Cruiser at the Union 76 station at Broad and Denny. "It's crazy when the gas prices get higher than milk prices."

Yesterday's statewide average price surpassed the previous high of $2.309, set May 29. But with the current wholesale price of oil running $20 a barrel above where it was at this time last year, most analysts expect high prices to persist, and even increase, as the summer driving season approaches.

Last year, Washington prices peaked May 29. The year before, it was a couple of weeks earlier.

"So this is pretty early in the year to have reached the peak," said Janet Ray, a spokeswoman for AAA Washington in Bellevue. "It's very probably going to keep increasing until -- sometime. I wish I could say when."

The national average price for regular unleaded self-serve gas was $2.228 yesterday. That price continues to climb since breaking its all-time record last month.

Within the state, average prices for regular unleaded self-serve gas yesterday ranged from $2.431, in the Bellingham area, down to $2.20, around Bremerton. The highest average in the state, for self-serve diesel, was $2.694 in the Richland-Kennewick-Pasco area.

Though AAA Washington, which tracks prices around the state, said these are historic highs, prices are nowhere near the all-time high when adjusted for inflation.

After the Arab oil embargo that began in 1980, the national average price of a gallon of unleaded regular reached a high of $1.35 per gallon in 1981.

That equals $2.89 per gallon in today's dollars, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis' inflation calculator.

It's hard to predict where the current rise in gas prices will end, Ray said, because it's unclear what causes them to change.


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