Oil’s surge in 2010 paves the way for $4 gasoline


The price of oil is poised for another run at $100 a barrel after a global economic rebound sent it surging 34 percent since May. That could push gasoline prices to $4 a gallon by summer in some parts of the country, experts say.

Flying, shipping a package and ordering a pizza all likely would get more expensive in the new year if that happens and companies pass along higher energy costs. Some economists say rising energy prices will slow economic growth.

The U.S. is the world’s largest oil consumer, but prices since spring have been on a roll primarily because of rising demand in developing countries, especially China. China’s oil consumption is expected to rise 5 percent next year; that compares with less than 1 percent growth forecast for the U.S.

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose $1.54 on Friday to end the year at $91.38 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It reached $92.06 earlier in the day, the highest since Oct. 6, 2008. Nationwide gasoline pump prices now average $3.072 per gallon.

Gasoline expert Fred Rozell predicts that 15 states — including Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut and Rhode Island — will see gasoline prices top $4 a gallon by Memorial Day. “A dollar more per gallon isn’t that much — probably about $750 more per year for each motorist, but there’s a psychological aspect to gas prices,” he said. “People are going to be up in arms about this.”

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