Gas prices climb a dime in a week in Columbus

A penny for your thoughts on the rising price of gasoline. Or how about a dime?

That’s how much the price of regular unleaded has jumped over the last week in the Columbus market. And it’s no vapor-induced mirage.

A gallon of gas was selling for an average $2.40 locally on Monday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s up from $2.30 seven days ago.

The drivers behind the quick spike apparently are the slumping U.S. dollar and oil refineries cutting back on production.

The national price of regular unleaded on Monday registered more than $2.56 per gallon, up 6 cents from a week ago, AAA said.

“The numbers tell us that consumer demand is not driving fuel prices higher,” AAA Auto Club South spokesman Gregg Laskoski said in a statement. “It’s the weak U.S. dollar that is rallying commodities like crude oil and pushing gasoline prices now.”

The price for a barrel of crude oil topped $75 last week, then surged to near $80 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday. Prices per barrel closed at $79.61, up more than $1 on the day.

Crude oil, which is purchased in dollars, becomes cheaper for global investors as the currency’s value tanks, thus generating more upward trading.

With consumer demand for gas remaining down, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that refinery output rates are around 81 percent.

“The refining margins have been really pitiful, and as a result it doesn’t really make sense to run at full capacities,” said Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service.

The lowest price of gas spotted in Columbus Monday afternoon was $2.34 and $2.35 per gallon at Liberty and Chevron stations on Macon Road, according to A Marathon station on Second Avenue was reportedly selling regular for $2.36 per gallon.

Even with the price surge, however, Columbus gas prices are lower than a year ago when they were $2.93 per gallon. And they’re nowhere near the all-time high of nearly $4.21 per gallon on Sept. 18, 2008, as the financial crisis gripped the nation.

The priciest fuel in Georgia on Monday could be found in Savannah, where a gallon of gas was selling for an average $2.44, according to AAA. The low spots were $2.38 per gallon in Albany and Augusta.

For those traveling Monday, a gallon of regular registered $2.39 in Birmingham, Ala., and $2.36 in Chattanooga, Tenn. In Florida, prices were $2.51 in Orlando, $2.52 in Pensacola and nearly $2.66 in West Palm Beach.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.