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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose from $3.25 on Dec. 17 to $3.78 on Feb. 25, the 16-percent increase is not unusual, reported the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Gasoline prices typically rise for an extended period during the first half of every year, and in some years, the increase begins the previous December. This year's December-to-February increase was smaller than seasonal price increases in nine of the previous 10 years, according to the report. In absolute terms, it was the fourth smallest annual increase since 2003.
The national average fell 24 cents per regular gallon to $3.54 from Feb. 25 to April 15. As a result, if the average does not rise above $3.78 per gallon again this season, the 2013 seasonal price increase will have the earliest ending date since 1991, when the EIA began reporting weekly retail gasoline prices.
Over the past 20 years, the average period of rising prices during the spring has been 16 weeks, typically beginning in early February and ending around Memorial Day. During the past 10 years, the average duration of the price increase grew to 19 weeks, usually beginning in early January and ending in mid-May.
Factors affecting the seasonal increase include peak refinery maintenance season, the switch from winter-grade gasoline to summer-grade blends, an increase in overall gasoline demand and rising crude oil prices.