Gasoline prices in Chattanooga rose Monday to just a penny below their all-time average high reached in Chattanooga during March and could go even higher this week as fuel demand continues to shrink the inventory of supplies.
The average price of regular gas in Chattanooga on Monday was $4.11 a gallon — one cent below the record of $4.12 a gallon reached in early March, according to GasBuddy's survey of 170 stations in Chattanooga.
"New records continued to be set on a near-daily basis as the national average edges even closer to $4.50 per gallon," GasBuddy petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan said in a report Monday. "Prices later this week could be closer to $5 per gallon than $4, as demand continues to edge higher and inventories of both gasoline and diesel continue to decline, temperatures warm and motorists get back outside and we near the Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer driving season."
Chattanooga was boasting the cheapest gas anywhere in the state on Monday at the Sam's Club on Lee Highway, where motorists were lined up all day to take advantage of the relatively inexpensive gas at $3.63 a gallon.
Mike Thomas, an East Ridge motorist who spent more than $78 to fill up the 26-gallon tank in his Chevy Suburban, said he regularly shops around for cheaper gas to try to limit what he pays.
"It's tough on everyone, but there's not a lot we can do about it," he said Monday while filling up his vehicle.
The pain at the pump could soon worsen, according to industry analysts.
"Everything is pointing toward even higher prices," Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, told CNN Monday.
Lipow said he expects the nationwide average price of gas to reach $5 a gallon later this spring.
"When you start paying $80 to $100 to fill your tank up, that's taking food off the table or clothes off the back of some people," Todd Lansden of Eastdale said as he filled up his car at the Sam's Club.
Prices in Chattanooga are 37.9 cents per gallon higher than a month ago and are up $1.34 a gallon from a year ago, GasBuddy said. But fuel prices in Chattanooga were still 35 cents a gallon below the U.S. average.
The price of diesel rose even higher reaching a record high of $5.55 a gallon in Chattanooga on Monday.
With the national average cost for regular gas steadily climbing, AAA said three states — Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma — were the only holdouts for crossing the $4 per gallon mark. The national average for a gallon of gasoline is now $4.48, according to AAA.
"The high cost of oil, the key ingredient in gasoline, is driving these high pump prices for consumers," said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson. "Even the annual seasonal demand dip for gasoline during the lull between spring break and Memorial Day, which would normally help lower prices, is having no effect this year."