Get Ready For $4-A-Gallon Gas

With the economy kinda sorta picking up, and consumers in China, India and Brazil buying cars in droves, gas prices are expected to keep going up, and may hit $4 a gallon by early spring, when Americans finish scraping the ice off of their windshields and begin planning road trips. And unlike 2008, when gas last broke the $4 barrier, only to later drop to lower prices, $4 may be a new baseline, followed by $5 gas as early as next year.

CNBC looked at the factors driving prices up:

Sometimes prices jump in late fall if the cold weather starts early, generating competition for crude oil between home-heating oil and gasoline. But that didn’t happen this year, and prices rose anyway — mostly because of this demand from growing markets.

A couple of other factors have also contributed to the nonstop ascent of gas prices since last summer: Rising crude-oil prices, since oil is used to make gasoline, and the weak dollar, since all oil is traded in dollars and when the dollar is weak, foreign currencies buy more dollars — and more oil.

Now, here’s the really bad news: Prices are expected to continue rising straight through the summer driving season.

CNBC lists the usual fuel-saving tips, including keeping tires inflated and avoiding heavy loads. If that doesn’t do it, you could always get a $157,000 electric car.

Gas Prices and Economy: What Happened to the Winter Break for Gas Prices? [CNBC]