The average price of self-serve regular gasoline has increased an average of 13.1 cents since mid-February, and is less than two cents away from setting a new record high, AAA's daily online Fuel Gauge Report shows.

As of March 11, the nationwide average price of self-serve regular gasoline is $1.702 per gallon. This is 1.6 cents short of the highest price ever recorded by AAA's Fuel Gauge Report; $1.718, May 15, 2001. High prices in the spring of 2001 were caused by strong demand for gasoline and the industry's annual conversion to cleaner-burning and more costly summer fuels.

AAA said the continuing rise in gasoline prices this year is being caused by recent cold weather, low inventories of gasoline, high crude oil prices and continued oil industry concern about a possible war with Iraq.

One year ago, the nationwide average price of self-serve regular was $1.183 per gallon; 51.9 cents lower than today. The low average price of one year ago was largely due to a slowdown in fuel consumption, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In the current high gasoline price environment, AAA is advising motorists to shop aggressively for the best price on gasoline, look for ways to cut down on fuel consumption and keep their vehicles properly maintained to increase fuel economy.

Motorists also should be prepared to resist the urge to immediately buy gasoline following a possible declaration of war on Iraq, or the commission of a terrorist act, AAA said.

This is because the "panic buying" of gasoline and the formation of gas lines have the potential of causing needless fuel shortages, in local areas. A voiding this behavior is the best way to ensure adequate fuel supplies for everyone.

Since mid-February, gasoline prices have jumped up 30 cents per gallon in the West to $1.93 per gallon. Average gas prices increased 6.9 cents per gallon in the Midwest to $1.656 per gallon. Prices have increased 9.7 cents in the Great Lakes region to $1.742 per gallon, and moved 9.5 cents higher in the Southeast to $1.656 per gallon.

Gasoline prices are up 7.3 cents in the Southwest to $1.598 per gallon. In the Mid-Atlantic region, gasoline averages $1.662 per gallon; an increase of 5.4 cents per gallon from one month ago. New England gasoline prices have increased 5.6 cents per gallon since mid-February to average $1.681 per gallon.

Nationwide, the price of self-serve, mid-grade averages $1.807, an increase of 14 cents per gallon since last month, and 55.1 cents higher than last year. Self-serve premium averages $1.872 per gallon, up 14.4 cents since mid-February, and 57 cents higher than last year.

Average regional prices for self-serve regular in mid-March of last year were: West, $1.264; New England, $1.207; Mid-Atlantic, $1.169; Southwest, $1.178; Great lakes, $1.261; Midwest, $1.232; and Southeast, $1.15.

The national average prices for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline for AAA's mid-March survey for the last five years are: 2002, $1.183; 2001, $1.435; 2000, $1.543; 1999, $0.97; and 1998, $1.081.

AAA's Fuel Gauge Report is based on data from Oil Price Information Service, the nation's most comprehensive source of petroleum pricing information.

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