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    U.S. Drivers Set Record for Gas Spending in 2011

    Despite lower demand, more than $448 billion has been paid for fuel so far this year.

    LOSĀ ANGELES -- American drivers so far this year have spent more than $448 billion on gasoline, according to the Oil Price Information Service, breaking the previous record for gas expenditures -- set in 2008 -- with almost a month to go before the year's done.

    According to a report by the LA Times, the jump in gas spending is a huge increase over last year, when U.S. drivers spent more than $100 billion less on gas. The increase is attributable to higher gas prices because demand was lower than usual this year.

    The report noted that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is on pace to top $1 trillion in net oil exports for the first time, or 29 percent more than last year.

    Looking ahead to next week, when OPEC convenes to discuss production levels, analysts held out little hope that the group would raise output to lower prices.

    On Friday, crude oil for January delivery gained $1.07 to close at $99.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Nymex oil prices are up 8.8 percent so far for the year.

    At the pump, gas prices hit a record for this time of year. On Friday, the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.293, breaking the 2007 record by 28.5 cents. Compared with last year, it was 31.8 cents higher.

    The demand for vehicle fuel has been about 4 percent lower this year than in 2010, according to the Energy Department.

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