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Gas price climb continues in Grand Forks, region

Motorists might have experienced another bout of sticker shock if they stopped to fill up their fuel tanks today. The price of regular unleaded fuel jumped another 10 cents to $3.69 per gallon at some gas stations in Grand Forks and climbed as hi...

Gas prices
Grand Forks motorists are now paying $3.69 for a gallon of gas at some stations. Since the first of the year that's 44 to 50 cents higher. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Motorists might have experienced another bout of sticker shock if they stopped to fill up their fuel tanks today.

The price of regular unleaded fuel jumped another 10 cents to $3.69 per gallon at some gas stations in Grand Forks and climbed as high as $3.75 in Devils Lake.

That's 44 to 50 cents higher than prices were at the beginning of the year.

Around the state today, prices reached $3.69 in Grand Forks, Bismarck and Minot, while in Fargo they ranged between $3.39 and $3.41, according to GasBuddy.com, a nationwide gas price monitoring and analysis service.

The national average already has surpassed the lower end of GasBuddy's forecast for mid-May of $3.75 to $4.15 a gallon.

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"I'm not surprised by the quick rise in prices," said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst for GasBuddy. "I am a bit surprised that they have risen the way they have in North Dakota."

Spring forecast

The average in North Dakota has risen from $3.36 to $3.60 this year, according to GasBuddy. But DeHaan said he would be somewhat surprised if gas prices in North Dakota surpass $4 this spring.

Prices tend to moderate more in North Dakota than in other areas of the country, he said, because of the proximity of the Bakken Formation Oil Patch and the fact that an oil refinery is located in the state.

Nationally, gasoline prices typically peak around Memorial Day when travelers push up demand. Refineries usually produce less in the spring as they switch from winter to summer blends, he said.

This spring, prices have been influenced by a variety of events, including a recent oil refinery fire in Washington state and rising tensions in the Middle East, particularly with regard to Iran's nuclear development and relations between Iran and Israel.

"We're already at a national average that's just a few cents under the low side of the price range we expected for May," DeHaan wrote on his GasBuddy blog over the weekend. "So things could get worse -- or stabilize."

Last year, the highest annual national average price of gasoline was $3.53 for regular unleaded.

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This year, the U.S. Energy Department expects crude oil prices to average more than $100 a barrel for the first time, which could result in another national average price record of about $3.55 per gallon.

"It'll have a profound effect," DeHaan said.

Drivers in North Dakota tend to consume more gasoline and spend more of their monthly income on gas than residents of other states, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

That organization's data indicates that North Dakotans in October 2011 bought 129.9 gallons of gasoline per household, accounting for 11.9 percent of their monthly income. Only three states have residents who pay a larger portion, with Montana paying the most.

Minnesotans bought 95.4 gallons per household during October 2011, accounting for 7.1 percent of their monthly income.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to kbonham@gfherald.com .

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