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WASHINGTON -- U.S. retail gas prices rose to their highest level in more than a year as the average cost of a gallon of gasoline soared 1.8 cents during the last week to $1.46, 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, is up 19.3 cents from a year ago, marking the highest level since the last week of September 2001. Crude oil prices have hovered near the key $30-a barrel level in recent weeks as the threat of military action against Iraq, coupled with a series of tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico, has left many industry watchers uneasy.
The price of crude, which accounts for 47 percent of the cost of gasoline, has surged 40 percent this year. Last week's increase in prices was led by the Midwest, where the average price for a gallon of gas rose by approximately 3.0 cents to $1.503, the highest among all regions surveyed by the EIA.
Motorists in the Lower Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions had the cheapest pump prices, even though the average cost jumped 2.9 cents and 2.8 cents, respectively, to $1.40.
Among the six major cities highlighted by the EIA, Houston was far and away the cheapest place for gasoline at $1.38, up 1.2 cents. In Denver, gasoline fell 0.4 cent to $1.48 while in New York City they rose 0.4 cent to $1.50.
Chicago moved ahead of San Francisco as the most expensive place to fuel up as prices soared 6.6 cents to $1.594. In San Francisco, prices edged 0.9 cents higher to $1.597 a gallon.
Prices in five cities have risen between 9.9 cents, in Los Angeles, and 26.9 cents, in Chicago, from a year ago, while falling 11.2 cents in San Francisco.
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 1.1 cents to $1.49.
U.S. truckers continued to pay more in the latest week as the price for a gallon of diesel rose 0.8 cents to $1.47, its 10th straight weekly increase. Prices, which rose across all major regions except the West Coast, are up an average 15.1 cents from a year ago.
Truckers in the Lower Atlantic paid the least for diesel at $1.43, up 0.6 cent. The West Coast had the highest diesel price with the average gallon down 0.1 cent to $1.53.