California said aloha to Hawaii, surpassing that state for the dubious honor of having the highest gasoline prices in the U.S. for the first time in nearly two years.
Motorists here paid an average of $3.184 a gallon Sunday, AAA reported, well ahead of No. 2 Hawaii at $2.975.
"That's a rare thing, but this is a rare year," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J., which compiled the data for the automobile association from more than 85,000 fuel stations.
Gas prices tend to spike in states with high demand and limited refinery capacity, such as California. Usually, Hawaii is the most expensive because it has only two refineries, but this year California has had refinery problems and Hawaii hasn't.
For the week that ended Monday, the average price in California for self-serve regular gas hit $3.152 a gallon, according to an Energy Department survey. That was 3.1 cents higher than the previous week and 48.3 cents above the year-earlier price.
The national average climbed to $2.610, up 3.3 cents for the week and 11.2 cents from the same period in 2006.
Analysts said more pain at the pump was likely after crude oil hit its highest price this year, driven by global tensions and domestic infrastructure issues.
Crude oil for May delivery finished 63 cents higher at $62.91 in New York. That's up 26% from the 2007 low of $49.90 on Jan. 18.
Iran continued to hold 15 British sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf and was stiffening its reaction to United Nations sanctions.
But John Kilduff, senior vice president of energy risk management with Fimat USA Inc. in New York, blamed rising fuel prices on refinery problems.
A rash of outages in the U.S. continued with a fire last week at a BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., one of the nation's largest.
"Gas inventories have plunged," Kilduff said.