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    Average Gas Prices Top $3

    The all-time retail gas price high could be easily beat, analyst said. Meanwhile, an OPIS study reveals nearly 4 percent of Americans' income pays for gasoline, and holiday travel will not be impacted by high gas prices, AAA reports.

    NEW YORK -- The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. jumped nearly $0.13 to top the $3 mark during the past two weeks, and is likely to go higher, even if crude oil prices fall, Reuters reported, citing industry analyst Trilby Lundberg.

    The national average for self-serve, regular unleaded gas was $3.09 a gallon as of Nov. 16, an increase of approximately 12.93 cents per gallon, according to the Lundberg survey of about 7,000 gas stations, the report stated.

    The new average is approximately 86 cents higher than last year's pump prices at this time, and just $0.09 cents shy of the all-time high seen on May 18, 2007, according to Reuters.

    "We can easily exceed that all-time high price this year, even if crude oil prices fall," survey editor Trilby Lundberg told Reuters, adding that even though retail margins are improving, wholesale gasoline prices have not caught up with the price of crude oil.

    "Refiners' margins are still severely depressed," she added.

    To date in 2007, retailers' margins have been less than $0.11 cents per gallon, slightly below the past two years' levels, Lundberg told Reuters.

    The highest average price for self-serve regular gasoline can be seen in San Francisco, at $3.48 per gallon, while the lowest price, at $2.91 a gallon, was found in Tucson, Ariz., the report stated.

    Meanwhile, a new study released by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) found that nearly 4 percent of Americans' paychecks are being spent on gasoline, Home & Away Magazine reported. In addition, the percentage of income spent on fuel is rising as pump prices increase, industry experts told the magazine.

    On average, U.S. consumers now spend 3.8 percent of every dollar earned on gasoline, compared to 2002, when 1.9 percent of every dollar earned went to fuel, the report stated.

    The study incorporated pricing, income and miles traveled in more than 3,000 counties in the U.S., which revealed a wide spread of costs for different regions of the country, according to the report. For example, in the Southeast, 4.6 percent of average household spending -- the highest in the survey -- is allocated for fuel, the report stated.

    The Midwest follows at 4.2 percent of income; then the Southwest at 3.9 percent; the Rocky Mountains at 3.7 percent; the Great Lakes at 3.6 percent; and the West Coast at 3.2 percent, according to the report. Two regions tied for the lowest percentage of income spent on fuel -- New England and the Midatlantic -- at 2.8 percent, the report stated.

    In addition, fuel budgets in some areas of the U.S. have increased more than 100 percent since 2002. Drivers in Wilcox, Ala., dole out 13 percent of household income to purchase fuel, the report stated.

    In other gas price news, the high prices at the pump will not deter Thanksgiving travel plans, as about 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home for the holiday, a 1.5 percent increase over last year, AAA reported.

    "Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for family gatherings, and higher gas will not discourage Americans from reconnecting with their loved ones," Robert L. Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA, said in a statement.

    The survey, based on a national Web survey of 2,200 adults, found that 31.2 million drivers will hit the road, an increase of 1.3 percent, while another 4.7 million travelers will go by air, a 2.2 percent increase over 2006, AAA reported.

    "This is the first time that we have seen gas prices tipping over $3 a gallon in November," Darbelnet added. "A year ago, prices were in the range of $2.20 a gallon, so this year travelers are really feeling the pinch."

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