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Gasoline, Oil Prices Peak Around the Nation

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Energy Department today releases its latest survey of gasoline prices. Last week, gas prices were already hitting record highs, and the price of crude oil used to make gas just keeps climbing.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: AAA has been predicting that the average gas price across the country will hit $3.50 a gallon sometime before the Memorial Day weekend. Pump prices were already nearing that figure at the end of last week. Most of the price, more than two and a half dollars a gallon, goes for crude oil, which topped $116 a barrel last week. Taxes add another $.45 cents or so. And the refiner, who converts the crude oil into gasoline, gets only about a quarter.

AAA's Jeff Sundstrom says that breakdown suggests refiners profits have been getting squeezed by the sky-high costs of oil, which they aren't able to fully recover at the gas pump.

Mr. JEFF SUNDSTROM (AAA): It really is telling us that at this very high price for crude oil, the industry is actually not passing on as much of the cost as they might otherwise be doing. And once the economy starts to rebound, unfortunately, it could get another kick in the head from gas prices that are even higher than what we're paying now.

HORSLEY: So far this year, Americans have been driving a little less, and that's kept gas prices from climbing even higher. If oil prices do fall back from their current peaks, though, the savings may flow to refiners rather than showing up as lower prices at the gas pump.

Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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