(AP) — Gas pump prices continue to climb, hitting $3.87 per gallon on Tuesday, though experts say the national average should fall eventually as Americans drive less.
Retail gasoline prices have increased for 35 straight days, adding 32.2 cents per gallon since March 22. They're above $4 per gallon in California, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Alaska and Hawaii.
Pump prices, which have followed oil higher this year, got another boost on Tuesday after three Texas refineries lost power. Authorities said they're still looking for the cause of the outage at the Valero, BP and Marathon Oil refineries in Texas City. A Dow Chemical plant also lost power.
Gasoline futures increased 2 cents to $3.3003 per gallon in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Oil analyst Tom Kloza said the shutdowns may have halted 300,000 barrels of daily gasoline production. It'll take time to get those refineries back in order Kloza said. "Refineries are finicky. It's not like turning the lights back on."
Kloza thinks gas will start to fall eventually as more consumers drive less and demand falls. But the news will probably get worse before it gets better. He expects pump prices will soon hit a national average of $4 per gallon.
MasterCard SpendingPulse has reported that motorists have cut back on gasoline purchases for seven straight weeks. Another SpendingPulse survey is expected Tuesday.
Meanwhile, benchmark crude for June delivery was little changed. It lost 16 cents at $112.12 per barrel on the Nymex.
Investors are waiting to hear what the Federal Reserve will have to say about the nation's economy and interest rates. The Fed meets Tuesday and Wednesday. The expectation is that the central bank will keep interest rates where they are now, near zero.
In other Nymex trading for May contracts, heating oil gained 2.23 cents at $3.2212 per gallon and natural gas lost 3.5 cents to $4.354 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude rose 24 cents to $123.90 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.