Gas prices at most Brainerd-Baxter area filling stations jumped from $1.59 to $1.69 per gallon Thursday, nearing price highs from mid-summer 2000.
A few stations even jumped up to $1.73, while some stayed at $1.59, leading to cars waiting to buy gas there.
In late June 2000 Brainerd area prices were $1.77. Gas prices peaked at near $2.00 in 2000. In April 2000, area gasoline prices were $1.35.
Brainerd area residents aren't alone. Across the state Thursday gasoline prices jumped to near $1.70 per gallon. Before the increase, the area and the state gas prices were also in line with the national average of $1.60 per gallon.
In regard to public speculation of $3 per gallon prices this summer, Daron Van Helden, spokesman for Minnesota AAA, said it probably won't happen, though such discussion in the national media gives the gas companies possible initiative to do so.
"Talking about it builds expectations and gives them (oil companies) more license to make it happen," Van Helden said. "Maybe we're not going to see $2.25 like Chicago, but we're probably not going to hang around $1.50. Things have definitely changed."
There are several factors involved in the price increase, including unexpected high demand and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cutting back on production.
In January, OPEC announced a cutback in crude oil production. Crude oil prices rose $1.85, from $27.63 a barrel to $29.48 a barrel. Oil prices peaked at more than $35 a barrel last year.
In past cases, the price of crude oil dictated the price of gasoline. As crude oil prices -- which are primarily set by traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- went up, so did gasoline.
From Tuesday to Wednesday the cost of crude oil went down, from 28.23 per barrel to 27.98, but gas prices jumped, leading Van Helden to believe OPEC is trying to boost crude oil prices back to $30 per barrel.
"It won't be a surprise to anyone if, in a few weeks, crude oil prices go up," he said.
Crude oil prices fell again Thursday, to $27.83.
The high gas prices of last summer had an effect on people's driving habits, Van Helden said, as travel was down, though slightly, for the first time since the early 1980s.
(This story includes information from The Associated Press.)
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