gas_pumps.jpgAs California’s average gas prices become the nation’s highest, Bay Area motorists will be paying an average of 48 cents more per gallon of gasoline now compared to last month, a AAA spokesman said.

Gas prices are averaging $3.96 per gallon for the Bay Area this month, compared to February’s $3.48 per gallon average, according to the AAA.

Californians can expect to pay an average of $3.91 per gallon of gas, an increase of 50 cents from February 8, according to the AAA.

“Largely due to unrest in the Middle East, investors have been willing to speculate that prices will increase further and that they will be able to make a profit on the product they are purchasing today,” AAA spokesman Matt Skryja said in a news release.

Until this uncertainty is removed from the market, crude oil and gasoline prices will rise in the coming days and weeks, Skryja said in a news release.

The national average per gallon of gas is $3.52, which has increased by 40 cents from February’s prices, according to the AAA.

As prices rise, so do calls for President Obama to tap into the strategic petroleum reserve, an emergency stockpile of crude oil that the United States uses to protect the country from petroleum supply interruptions, AAA officials said.

This reserve is designed as a tool to replenish domestic energy shortages, but AAA officials said that recent price increases have been driven by investor demands, not traditional supply and demand factors.

AAA recommends that consumers shop aggressively to find the lowest price for gas.

The organization offers cell phone text alerts for low gas prices in local neighborhoods. Consumers can sign up for these alerts at

Rachel Purdy, Bay City News

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