Gasoline prices are ratcheting up, hitting close to $3.50 a gallon in Santa Rosa on Wednesday at a time when they ought to falling, analysts say.
It's midwinter: People are driving less while crude oil and gasoline inventories are high, but the laws of supply and demand appear to have been revoked.
Pump prices reached a 28-month high nationwide on Wednesday, and the average price in Santa Rosa was $3.49 a gallon, up 12 cents from a month ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
A year ago, gas was $2.93 in Santa Rosa.
The pro-democracy movement coursing through the Middle East and North Africa may be welcome politically, but it makes oil investors jittery.
Any threat to oil supplies spurs investors to buy crude oil, driving up the price, said Matt Skryja of AAA Northern California.
Investment trends now shape oil and gas prices more than supply and demand, he said. "That's the way it's been going," he said.
Gasoline supplies will be ample through spring and summer, energy analyst Jim Ritterbusch said recently. "But it's a market that remains subject to the vagaries of geopolitics."
Gas will top $4 a gallon in California this year, possibly by Memorial Day, government and private industry analysts have said.