Gas prices set to spike next year

COVINGTON -- Gas prices have remained relatively moderate over the holiday season but will likely increase in 2010, according to industry experts.

Current average gas prices per gallon for regular unleaded fuel in Georgia is $2.47, down 3 cents from a month ago, but up 94 cents from a year ago.

The national average is $2.60, down 2 cents from a month ago and up $1.01 from a year ago. Those numbers are based on AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the result of daily surveys of more than 100,000 self-serve stations.

Light holiday trading on the markets contributed to erratic oil price swings to close out 2009, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report Overview by Regulatory Affairs Manager Andrew Delmege.

"Of course, the markets are at least in part reacting to other larger economic factors and news events as well. The combination of light trading and unanticipated events has pushed prices up several dollars over the past week and a half," Delmege said.

Gas prices climbed gradually throughout the year and were marked by long periods of stability in contrast to the roller coaster prices in 2008. The lowest average national price of regular unleaded gas was recorded on Jan. 1 at $1.62 per gallon, with the highest recorded Oct. 30 at $2.69.

Retail prices are expected to spike in 2010 in reaction to rising crude oil prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Short-Term Energy Outlook.

EIA predicts West Texas Intermediate crude oil will average about $76 per barrel this winter, with the price dipping to $75 early in 2010 and then rising to $82 per barrel by December 2010, assuming U.S. and world economic conditions continue to improve.

Rising crude oil prices will contribute to an increase in the annual average regular grade gasoline retail price from $2.35 per gallon in 2009 to $2.83 in 2010, according to EIA.

Diesel fuel retail prices are expected to increase from $2.46 per gallon to $2.96.

Crude oil prices averaged $78 per barrel in November, more than $2 per barrel above the prior month's average, reflecting improving expectations of global economic recovery and higher oil consumption, according to EIA.