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Gas Prices Reach Unseasonable Highs In D.C.

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AAA Mid-Atlantic is seeing high gas prices in the D.C. region for this time of year. 
Markette Smith
AAA Mid-Atlantic is seeing high gas prices in the D.C. region for this time of year. 

Gas prices in the D.C. Metro area are up nearly 10 cents from a week ago, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, and the threat of a conflict in the Middle East may be driving prices up.

In the nation's capital, the average cost per gallon is $3.70, causing people to grumble as they make their regular trips to the pump. 

At a gas station on M Street in Northwest, motorists are filling up for $4.49 per gallon for regular fuel. It's one of the highest priced stations in the area.

While fuel prices are traditionally low during the cold weather months, several issues in play at this time may translate into higher gas prices.

"There are three things right now going on that might be driving up oil prices, or that could in the future," says Jeff Colgan, an International Relations professor at American University. (WAMU is licensed to American University. 

"One is the U.S. and European embargo on Iranian oil," Colgan continues. "Second is the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran and the third is the Iranian response to all of that, which is the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz and therefore cut off a huge portion of the world's oil supply."

That would include oil from Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, according to Colgan.

"19 million barrels of oil per day flow through the Strait of Hormuz and if it gets restricted that could drive up gasoline prices around the world, including obviously here in DC," Colgan says.

But John Townsend of AAA-Mid Atlantic says the situation in the Middle East cannot be blamed, because crude oil prices are at a six-week low. 

"There's demand destruction out there," he says. "People aren't driving as much and this time of year, they're all working and all nestled down in their jobs, so what, then, would be the reason for gas prices at record highs for this time of year other than pure greed?"

Townsend says D.C. area consumers can expect to pay record high amounts for gas in the coming spring and summer.

WAMU is licensed to American University.

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