If your car is in need of a fill-up, better head to the pump pronto.
Gas prices are back on the rise and could increase by 10 to 15 cents a gallon over the next couple of weeks, analysts say.
The biggest culprit behind the anticipated surge is the price of crude oil, which approached $106 a barrel Friday. That's up from $97 on July 1. Each $1 increase typically turns into a 2.5-cent hike at the gas station. The average in California is hovering around $4 a gallon, up a few cents over the past week. But the national average reached $3.55 on Friday, seven cents more than a week earlier.
Analysts say oil has risen for two primary reasons -- fear that the unrest in Egypt could disrupt oil shipments through the Suez Canal and a dramatic drop in U.S. supplies of oil and gas in the past two weeks. The tightening of supplies signals a rise in demand as the summer vacation season gains steam and Americans drive more than in recent years.
"Fear is driving up oil prices, as well as data showing a massive decline in crude inventories," said analyst Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com.
The looming price increase comes at a time when Americans should be rejoicing for their fuel-efficient ways. Energy officials announced last week that the U.S. met 89 percent of its own energy needs in March, the highest monthly rate since April 1986, when Ronald Reagan was president, gas-guzzling SUVs began to rule the road and electric vehicles were little more than a fantasy.
"Domestic production is increasing in the U.S., but we're still importing a lot of crude oil from the Mideast," DeHaan said. "Even after we're on our own, we still may be subject to global oil prices and fundamentals."
Wholesale gasoline prices have risen as much as 60 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, and motorists will feel the effect of that jump soon.
"We're going to get a little sticker shock at the pump," oil analyst Tom Kloza told The New York Times.
Bay Area motorists accustomed to wild price hikes over the past decade took the news in stride.
"As long as I can get gas for less than four bucks, I'm OK," said Pete White of Fremont. "Now, $4.50 would be another matter."
Few experts expect prices that high, thanks to the rapid growth in U.S. oil production, sluggish demand in Europe and slowing growth in China and much of the developing world.
Bloomberg and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Gary Richards at 408-920-5335.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration