Get ready for a little bit more pain at the pump this summer. Crude oil prices are at the highest level in more than three years and expected to climb higher, pushing up gasoline prices along the way, the AP reports. The US daily national average for regular gasoline is now $2.81 per gallon. That's up from about $2.39 per gallon a year ago, according to Oil Price Information Service. And across the US, 13% of gas stations are charging $3 per gallon or more, AAA said last week. "This will be the most expensive driving season since 2014," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service. Drivers in Western states such as California, Oregon, Washington, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, are paying the most at the pump. The average retail price in those states is running from $2.95 to $3.61 per gallon.
The price of US crude oil has been on a mostly steady incline since last June and last week hit $68.64, the highest since December 2014. Benchmark US crude closed Friday at $68.10. Oil prices near $70 shouldn't put the brakes on economic growth, however. While they're boosting costs for some sectors of the economy, the energy sector and related industries have more money to spend on equipment and workers. But higher oil prices are certainly an inconvenience for drivers, especially those with lower incomes. Rising oil prices have amplified the typical increase in gas prices seen this time of year. Pump prices normally rise as demand increases from families going on vacation and taking to the highways on road trips. Already, US consumer demand for gasoline hit a record high for the month of April, according to the US Energy Information Administration.