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Forecast: U.S. gas prices to reach $4.15 in 2012

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Analysts with Chicago-based GasBuddy Organization Inc., a system of more than 250 price-tracking Web sites operating under GasBuddy.com, are forecasting that U.S. gas prices will hit a high this year of $4.15 per gallon in May. Median prices, according to the forecast, would range from $3.34 to $3.95.

According to the forecast, customers can expect volatility in the market April 15-May 31 as refineries perform maintenance and produce cleaner-burning gasoline for the summer.

January is expected to be the month with the least expensive prices, with a median prediction of $3.34 per gallon, while analysts are predicting the year to finish in December at at median of $3.54 per gallon.

Three factors are expected to have a significant impact on prices in 2012:
  • continued destabilization in Iran;
  • gasoline and distillate exports; and
  • the proposed Canada pipeline, Keystone XL.
“While the 2012 outlook isn’t what I’d call rosy, we can look to Europe at their $6-$9 per gallon gasoline and be happy that we’re still not paying as much as some countries,” GasBuddy Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said in the forecast.

During the week of Jan. 9-15, the national average increased 1.1 cents to $3.34 per gallon yesterday. That price was 10.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago and 27.2 cents per gallon higher than a year ago, according to a separate GasBuddy news release.

This morning, Utah had the lowest average in the country, $2.88 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com's list of lowest gas averages by state. Missouri ranked No. 10 on the list, with an average of $3.16 per gallon.

As of 10:49 a.m., two filling stations in Warrensburg were selling the least expensive gas in the state at $2.92 per gallon. The most expensive gas, $3.35 per gallon, was available in Millersville.

The least expensive gas in Springfield, $2.96 per gallon, could be found at Sam's Club, 745 W. El Camino Alto Drive.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil was trading at $99.61 per barrel as of 10:51 a.m. Light sweet crude oil futures for February were trading at $99.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, according to the CME Group.
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