Gas prices are poised to spike, as analysts say the conflict in Syria has pushed crude oil prices to their highest levels in more than three years.
While gas prices in Southwest Florida remained flat over the week, the U.S. average is higher than it has been in more than two years, AAA reported Monday.
"Motorists should expect a 15 cent increase at the pump in the short term," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman at AAA in Tampa. "However, prices could rise even more, depending on how the crude market responds to the latest news of a U.S. missile strike over the weekend."
The average price for a gallon of regular gas in the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice market was $2.57 on Monday, up less than a penny from last week and 6 cents higher over the month, AAA reported.
Local prices are 17 cents higher than a year ago. The Florida average of $2.63 is the most expensive since February.
Drivers in the Tampa Bay and Orlando regions were paying the lowest average price in the state at $2.54. The Crrestview-Fort Walton Beach metro area was highest at $2.80.
Crude prices rose more than $5 last week, the largest weekly increase in more than eight months. AAA said crude is climbing due to the potential of U.S. sanctions against Syria's sponsors, Russia and Iran. Syria has not exported oil since civil war broke out in 2011, but it receives fuel deliveries from Iran.
Fuel prices remain vulnerable to conflict in the Middle East because global supplies are tightening. The OPEC and non-OPEC production cut agreement is eliminating the global oil supply glut that led to lower prices in recent years, AAA said.
Seasonal factors in the U.S. also are in play now, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
"The seasonal surge at gas pumps is in full motion, causing the most dreaded time of year for fearful motorists, especially of what may still be coming," he said. "In the past few years, the average date that gas prices have peaked is mid-May, which is just around the corner, and by all metrics, that could be very close to what we expect this time around. Refinery maintenance has gone well thus far, and gasoline supply has continued to push higher as more refiners conclude their work. With the transition to summer gasoline also wrapping up, the reasons gas prices to rise will shrink."