Thousands of Wichitans are preparing for holiday road trips this week just as gas prices are surging to their highest levels of the year.
Although the nation has never spent a Christmas with $3-a-gallon gas, AAA's FuelGaugeReport.com set the nation's average price for regular last week at $2.98 a gallon.
The Kansas average was $2.88, while the average in Wichita was $2.86. Prices in the 48 continental states ranged from a low of $2.74 in Colorado to a high of $3.62 in California.
"For many, rising gas prices are especially tough this time of year as they are on the road more with extra shopping trips, holiday events and road trips to visit friends and family," said Marshall Doney, AAA Automotive vice president.
Although prices haven't been surging in recent months, they have been creeping upward.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said $3 a gallon should be the approximate cap nationally for the holiday season.
He said prices should fall a bit after the first of the year and stay down until the spring. But after that, he said, prices are expected to head up — way up.
"If we were betting that a gallon of gas would be $3.35 a gallon on, say, Cinco de Mayo in Florida next year, and you asked me if I wanted the over or under, I'd take the over," he said.
Kloza said next spring and summer could bring the second-highest prices in our lifetime.
Although he doesn't expect it, Kloza said gas could hit $4 a gallon. Gas prices haven't been that high since July 17, 2008, when regular hit $4.11 a gallon — the highest recorded national average price.
Kloza attributed the gas price increases to a slight rally in the U.S. economy that increased demand, a rise in crude-oil prices, a fairly weak dollar and increased global demand in emerging markets such as China.