Gas prices spike again overnight; U.S. average up 6 cents

For the second day in a row, the average price at the pump has gone up at a faster pace than usual as all eyes are on the unrest in oil-rich Libya.

The U.S. average for a gallon of regular no-lead now stands at $3.29, up 6 cents overnight, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

That average has increased by 13 cents in the last week, by 18 cents in the last month, and 60 cents over the last year, the auto club reports.

In the five-county Philadelphia area, the average went up 4 cents overnight, to $3.29. That represents a boost of 8 cents in the last week as well as in the last month, and 53 cents over the last year.

South Jersey's average stood Friday at $3.11, 5 cents more than yesterday. That mark was up 11 cents from last Friday, 10 cents more than a month ago, and 56 cents more than a year ago.

Over the last few years, in periods when pump prices have trended upward, they have gone up a penny or two overnight, not by 4 to 6 cents at a time.

The average price of diesel fuel also increased overnight at a sharper rate: The average was up 2 cents overnight in the country overall to $3.50; up 3 cents overnight in the Philly area to $3.81; and up 6 cents in South Jersey to $3.56.

Meanwhile, oil prices are wavering today as jittery commodities markets open in New York.

The Libyan rebellion already has all but shut down exports from the oil-rich nation, and traders say it's hard to gauge how much world supplies will be affected as similar uprisings continue to unfold in North Africa and the Middle East.

Benchmark crude for April delivery rose 18 cents at $97.46 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Prices dropped shortly after the United States reported that the economy grew more slowly at the end of 2010 than previously thought. They jumped again on reports that a magnitude-5.7 earthquake hit Mexico's Gulf coast near numerous offshore oil platforms.

As for what that means for those us filling up our vehicles, Rick Remington, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, has this to say: "If crude prices were to stay around $100 per barrel, we could expect to see the price for a gallon of unleaded regular rise to about $3.40 in the not too distant future."

He continued: "Gasoline prices generally track crude oil prices, the major factor in what motorists pay at the pump. As a general rule of thumb, for every dollar the price of crude increases, the retail cost of gasoline will increase between a cent and a half and 2.4 cents a gallon at the pump."