July 4 Gasoline at 6-Year High on Iraq: Chart of the Day

U.S. drivers will pay the most for gasoline over the July 4 holiday weekend in six years after the conflict in Iraq boosted crude oil last month, preventing the typical June decline in pump prices.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows how gasoline at $3.67 a gallon is the highest for this time of year since 2008. Retail prices rose 0.3 cent in June, compared with a average drop of 20.8 cents during the month in the past three years. While prices have slipped in the past five days, they probably won’t fall much more before the weekend as almost 35 million people hit the road, according to AAA.

“I’m not expecting any big changes,” Michael Green, a spokesman for Heathrow, Florida-based AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said by telephone from Washington. “We might see a drop of a few tenths of a cent.”

Regular gasoline in the U.S. costs 19.2 cents a gallon more than a year ago, dragged up by oil prices that jumped last month as fighting in Iraq threatened to cut off supplies from OPEC’s second-largest producer. International benchmark Brent crude rose $2.95 a barrel in June, and settled at $111.24 a barrel yesterday.

The increase came just as the most people since 2007 made plans to travel over the July 4 holiday. About 34.8 million people will drive 50 miles or more from home during the five days ending July 6, up from 34.1 million last year, AAA estimates.

“Last year, prices peaked around March, and now they’ve peaked basically in June,” Sean Hill, petroleum economist for the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said by telephone from Washington. “This is all a function of what crude oil has done because of the Middle East.”

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