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Gas Prices at Historic Seasonal High: Is Any Relief in Sight?


The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. is the highest it has ever been at this point in September. At $3.85 a gallon, gas is 15-cents higher that it was a month ago and nearly a quarter higher than this time last year. Those pennies add up. According to the folks at Gasbuddy.com Americans driving 15k miles a year could see the amount they spend on gas jump more than $100 compared to last year.

With 2012 on pace to have the highest average gas prices in history, Breakout asked Gasbuddy.com's senior petroleum analyst, Patrick DeHaan to explain what's driving the increase. In the attached tape DeHaan says gas is inflated because of the remnants of hurricane Isaac, problems in the Middle East, the effect of the Fed's quantitative easing, and a relatively low level of supply.

The good news is prices historically ease into October and November. The bad news is that the trend hasn't followed its normal seasonal pattern in 2012. Prices are typically peak at the beginning of summer driving season near Memorial Day and drop into the new year. Instead prices put in a low at the beginning of July and have risen more than 10% since.

While President Obama is hinting at releasing oil form the Strategic Petroleum Reserve DeHaan says the impact would be fleeting, at best. The SPR isn't intended to control prices in anything but emergency situations and gasoline prices don't track crude oil perfectly. Short term fluctuations in crude aren't likely to have any impact on what it costs to fill your tank.

It's impossible to pin down a precise catalyst for this year's inflated gas prices but DeHaan says we can be sure of one thing: no one we elect in November is going to be able to ease our collective pain anytime soon.

"A politician is very limited in what they can do," says DeHaan. "Presidents can talk about oil prices and bringing them down, but there's not a lot they can do immediately to bring prices down."

The best we can do as citizens is drive efficient cars as little as possible and elect politicians with long term solutions. Now we just have to figure out who that candidate is.