Gas prices finished February with the largest increase since July. The national average rose 21 days in a row reaching 17 cents per gallon (5 percent) over the course of the month. It was the longest consecutive streak since last February.
The nation's gas prices averaged $3.34 a gallon in February, the cheapest monthly average since 2011. In prior years, February's gas prices averaged $3.65 in 2013, $3.55 in 2012 and $3.17 in 2011.
"AAA forecasts the price of gas will continue to rise well into March and April," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA â" The Auto Club Group. "Despite the projected rise in pump prices, it's expected that prices will remain less expensive than last year's peak of $3.79 per gallon."
Gas prices typically rise this time of year because many refineries cut production to conduct seasonal maintenance, which can limit gasoline supplies and cause market uncertainty. The majority of Gulf Coast refineries, the primary source of fuel in southeastern states, should conclude maintenance in mid to late Marchâ"assuming no major repairs keep refineries offline for an extended period of time.
Crude oil is another contributing factor to the price at the pump. The price of oil represents about two-thirds of the cost of gasoline, and producers generally pass along increased oil costs to consumers in the form of higher gas prices. The price of domestic West Texas Intermediate crude oil increased about $5.00 per barrel this month. The price for a barrel of oil settled Friday on the NYMEX at $102.59 â" 39 cents more than last week.
Sunday's national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.46, 5 cents more than last week. Florida's average of $3.45 is the same as last week. Georgia's average of $3.29 rose 1-cent, while Tennessee's average of $3.21 fell 1-cent from last week. Visit AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report to find national, state, and local metro market retail gasoline prices.