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WASHINGTON, D.C. — This month will usher in a much-welcomed spring season for many, but unwelcomed price increases at the pump.
According to AAA, gas prices could increase by 20 cents per gallon or more this month as refinery maintenance season pushes prices higher. Still, despite the expected increase, most regions should see prices remain much lower compared to recent years due to cheaper crude oil costs and above-average gasoline supplies.
"Gas prices likely will rise higher in March as refineries conduct seasonal maintenance," said Avery Ash, AAA spokesman. "The good news is that most U.S. drivers should still pay less than $3 per gallon to fill up their cars this year."
The expected rise in gas prices comes as U.S. average gas prices increased 35 days in a row for a total of 39 cents per gallon, which is the longest consecutive streak of rising prices since February 2013. Gas prices are up primarily due to a combination of rising crude oil costs, refinery maintenance and unplanned production problems, according to the association.
"Paying $2 for gas will seem like a distant memory for most drivers in the coming weeks," Ash said. "Gasoline remains much cheaper than in recent years, but drivers may not appreciate that fact given the steep increase in price over the past month."
Only about 1 percent of all U.S. stations are selling gas for less than $2 per gallon today, which is a steep reversal from January when more than six in 10 stations were selling gas for less than that price, AAA noted.
The average price of gas in February was $2.23 per gallon, which was the cheapest February average since 2009. The average in February 2014 was $3.34 per gallon.
U.S. average gas prices reached a low of $2.03 per gallon on Jan. 26 after dropping for a record 123 consecutive days. Gas prices have increased every day since reaching that low.