Even if crude oil prices level off or drop, motorists in Florida probably will see at least one more bump at the pump in the next few days.
The wholesale price for gasoline around the Gulf coast rose 18 cents a gallon Tuesday through the end of Wednesday and not all that increase has shown up on gas station signs.
"We've still got some catching up to do," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Services.
"Retailers can't absorb an increase of 18 cents," he said.
Nor can they jump prices that much at once, so gas stations will probably insert the increases over several days, Kloza said.
Retailers passed on some of the increase around the Tampa Bay area, rising from an average of $3.38 a gallon Wednesday morning to $3.42 by Thursday morning, said Angie LaPlant, spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South.
Gas prices are continuing their climb elsewhere, rising 9 cents since Monday in Florida to reach an average of $3.47 a gallon.
On Monday, you would have paid $3.38.
Nationwide, a gallon of regular rose 4 cents Wednesday night and 20 cents in a week. The average price for gas rose 29 cents since the middle of February when the uprising in Libya started.
The 29-cent increase still falls shy of the largest one-week rise in gas prices of 40 cents in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina disrupted supplies, said Neil Gamson, economist with the United States Energy Administration.
Gas prices are following the increase in crude oil that climbed $2.60 a barrel on Wednesday to $102.23 a barrel, but gave up some of that Thursday.
The price at the pump typically goes up about 2.5 cents for every $1 increase in crude prices.
But crude is becoming pricey enough to give some investors and speculators pause, providing conditions in the Middle East that are sparking oil's rocket ride don't become worse, Kloza said.
Oil suppliers have adjusted to the loss of exports from Libya, which should settle markets slightly, he said.
"If it spreads to the Persian Gulf, all projections are out the window," he said.
Without more shockwaves from the Middle East, gas might not hit the $4 mark except in typically pricy places like Hawaii and California. Gas prices might be reaching a level that will cause drivers to throttle back on driving, Kloza said.
Gasoline hasn't topped $4 a gallon since 2008 when crude hit $147 a barrel. Until this week, 2008 was the last time crude hit more than $100 a barrel.
But crude prices couldn't maintain that stratospheric level and 2008 was a frenzied rollercoaster for gas and oil prices.
Gas started 2008 around $3 a gallon and reached a zenith at $4.11 on July 17, ending the year at $1.65, Kloza said. By the end of the year, a barrel of crude went from its top or $147 to $33, he said.