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WASHINGTON -- U.S. retail gas prices gained 4 cents in the latest week as a strike in Venezuela kept crude oil prices high during the holiday season, the Energy Department said. The latest pump price in the United States, based on a weekly survey of more than 800 service stations by the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA), rose to an average of $1.44 per gallon.
Crude oil has risen to two-year highs as concern that the Venezuelan oil strike, now in its 30th day, could continue to significantly curtail U.S. imports. The U.S. Energy Department has brushed aside requests from Congress to release emergency crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum reserve to offset supplies from Venezuela, the world's number-five oil exporter.
Last week's gasoline prices were pulled higher, led by the Midwest, where the price of a gallon of gas rose by an average of 5.8 cents to $1.45. Motorists in the West Coast posted the highest gasoline prices as the average cost increased 1.1 cents to $1.47, followed by East coast, where prices rose 3.9 cents to $1.45. Drivers in the Gulf coast paid the least to fill up even though prices jumped 4.9 cents to $1.39.
Among the six major cities highlighted by the EIA, Houston pump prices were far-and-away the cheapest at $1.35, up 3 cents. In Denver, gasoline rose 2.3 cents to $1.38 while in Los Angeles they increased 1.5 cents to $1.46. San Francisco remained the most expensive place to fuel up as prices increased 1.8 cents to $1.65. Prices in the six cities have risen between 29.9 cents in Chicago and 49.5 cents in Los Angeles from a year ago.
The national price for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, which is sold at about one-third of the gas stations in cities and smoggier areas, rose 3.1 cents to $1.49.
U.S. diesel prices jumped 5.1 cents in the latest week to $1.49. Prices are up an average 32.2 cents from a year ago. Truckers in the Gulf coast paid the least for diesel at $1.45, up 5.4 cents. The West Coast had the highest diesel price with the average gallon rising 3.4 cents to $1.54.