It's been hard to ignore the steady surge in gas prices over the past three years. The national average ballooned from $1.61 in December 2008 to $3.77 today. Now, four states and the District of Columbia are selling gas for upward of $4 a gallon, and predictions
abound that it will hit $5 by Memorial Day -- a milestone that some filling stations in California reportedly
already hit last month.
The website Gas Buddy
, which collects pricing information nationwide, shows that the five priciest gas states in the country are Hawaii, $4.38; California, $4.35; Alaska, $4.17; Illinois, $4.06; and Washington, D.C., $4.02. The most expensive cities for gas-buying are in California; Santa Barbara tops the charts, followed by San Francisco, Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego.
On the other side of the coin, gas is cheapest these days in Wyoming, $3.32, followed by Colorado, $3.45; Montana, $3.46; Utah, $3.54; and South Carolina, $3.55. The top bargain-gas cities are Fort Collins, Colo.; Denver; Colorado Springs; Billings, Mont.; and Fargo, N.D.
Why the discrepancy in pricing from state to state? One factor is local gas taxes, which can vary widely. A map
compiled by the American Petroleum Institute shows that the combined local, state and federal taxes are highest on the coasts and in one section of the Midwest: Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin) The gasoline tax tops out in New York, where it's a whopping 67.4 cents per gallon, followed closely by California, 67 cents, and Hawaii, 65.5 cents. Alaska has the lowest gas tax in the nation, at 26.4 cents per gallon. (Alaska's high gas prices are due, in part, to a lack of competition within the market, according to a recent report
With tensions in Iran simmering and the annual summertime spike in gas prices on the horizon, $5 gas could easily become a more widespread reality within the next few months. In fact, it could occur sooner if last month's price surge is any indication. The cost of gas typically experiences a dip in February, even in expensive years, but according to reporting by Time
, it was on the rise last month, jumping by nearly 30 cents per gallon.