Gasoline prices in the Scioto Valley also reached new record highs Wednesday, with most local gas stations raising gasoline prices to $3.459 a gallon for regular, unleaded, self-serve.
South central Ohio gas prices shot up 15.2 cents this week, according to "Fuel Gauge," a weekly flier from AAA East Central, which serves Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Kentucky.
The average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded, self-serve gasoline is $3.269, AAA said.
The increase in the average gasoline price occurred as increased crude prices placed pressure on the cost of all petroleum products, AAA said in a statement.
"Unlike other periods of dramatic fuel price increases, this latest price spike does not appear to be driven by rising physical demand for gasoline or even tight inventories of available fuel in the United States," said Bevi Powell of AAA. "It is instead being propelled higher, largely due to unprecedented levels of investment in crude oil and gasoline futures as hedge against a dollar that is falling against other major currencies, and as a perceived safe haven from sliding prices in the real estate, equities and bond markets."
In fact, a similar investing mania seems to be occurring across a broad spectrum of commodities, including grain, metals, and other raw materials, Powell said.
"Whether this speculative action will continue to gather momentum or soon run out of steam is difficult to know, but it is having a very real impact on consumers at the gas pump," she said.
Powell said the time when gasoline prices will be most at risk of sudden increase to even higher levels than anticipated is between now and May 15.
"This is the time of year when most of the United States oil refining industry makes its seasonal switch to cleaner-burning summer fuels," she said. "This process brings temporary, planned shutdowns of refining equipment and draw-downs of fuel inventories, as well as occasional mishaps that can disrupt gasoline supplies on a regional basis. Fortunately, two major refineries that experienced problems last year - one in Whiting, Ind., and the other in Coty, Texas - are back in operation this spring, which should cushion the impact of the process."
Once the seasonal switch-over process is complete, some of the pressure on retail gasoline prices should dissipate and prices could begin to fall in late May or early June, Powell said.
Following is a list of average prices of unleaded, self-serve gasoline in various regional locations: