U.S. motorists are moving full speed ahead to shelling out $491 billion at the gasoline pump this year, the most ever.
Gasoline prices will dip in the coming month due to seasonal factors, such as the end of the U.S. summer driving season, but overall, they're on track to break records for 2011, experts say.
"The 30 days between now and mid-October will be the most hospitable days in the country for dropping prices," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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Mideast unrest and rising demand could still pressure prices upward.
"But then the drumbeats will start about fears of a second Arab Spring. Demand outside of Europe and the U.S. continues to rise. By spring, Americans will be wrestling with $4 gasoline in a lot of markets," Kloza adds.
Fuel prices spiked in 2008 amid high global crude prices, although the global economic crisis pummeled demand by the end of that year.
The average price nationwide for 2008 came to $3.25 a gallon, yet the average price for 2011 should hit $3.66 a gallon, putting the country on track to pay a record $491 million for gasoline for all of 2011, Kloza says.
Even if prices do fall, they won't fall by much
"Our expectations are for crude to come a little lower, and that would be reflected in gas prices," says Phil Thompson, manager of market analytics at Mobius Risk Group, a firm that advises energy producers and big energy consumers, CNNMoney reports.
Retail gasoline prices could drop by up to 40 cents, but not much more, Thompson adds.
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