Labor Day weekend historically represents the end of the summer driving season, when motorists can look forward to gradually falling temperatures and gas prices.
This year, any decline at the pumps will be welcome.
GasBuddy.com, the national gas price tracker whose sites include SactoGasPrices.com, said U.S. consumers in 45 states will likely see the highest fuel prices they've ever seen over a Labor Day holiday weekend.
Only motorists in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming will be spared from record-high prices at the pump, according to GasBuddy.
"When you return to work after the Labor Day holiday, it might be a good time to ask your boss for a raise," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. "Although the end of summer driving season usually sends retail gas prices downward, they've got a long way to go before prices fall back to tolerable."
In California, with its high per-gallon taxes and fees, tolerable seems light-years away.
On Friday, AAA put the average statewide price of unleaded regular gas at $4.15 a gallon, up 34 cents from last month. In Sacramento, the average was $4.10, up 40 cents from a month ago.
In San Francisco, the going rate for regular was $4.23. If you wanted to fill the tank with premium in that town Friday, AAA said you could expect to pay $4.43 a gallon.
Relatively speaking, however, there's plenty of pain to go around.
"The national average is at $3.80 per gallon, 18 cents more than where we were a year ago, and eight states have an average price today at $4 a gallon or higher," DeHaan said. "Gas in New York City is averaging $4.06 a gallon, Los Angeles is at $4.15 a gallon, and those are relative bargains compared to the $4.35 a gallon we're paying now in Chicago."
DeHaan and other analysts pointed to a perfect storm of events, including the arrival of Hurricane Isaac, which forced partial or full closures of key Gulf Coast refineries.
In California, most of the gas price climb in the past month occurred in one week -- after an Aug. 6 fire at a key Chevron refinery in Richmond shut down some portions of that facility.
That nearly 25-cents-a-gallon spike prompted U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this week to call for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. Feinstein said she is troubled by the sharp at-the-pump increase even though gas supplies in the West appeared relatively unaffected by the Richmond refinery fire.
For Sacramento-area drivers, the reasons behind price hikes sometimes take a back seat to dealing with them.
"For our family, filling up two cars has become the biggest concern in our budget, more than food and clothes for the kids to start the school year," said Sacramentan Audrey Ames, filling the family sport-utility vehicle at a Chevron station at Greenback Lane and Auburn Boulevard in Citrus Heights.
(c)2012 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
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