Aldon Bob pumps gas into his '72 Impala Monday afternoon at the Race Trac on Northeast Evangeline Thruway. "It's getting out of control," Bob said of current gas prices. (Leslie Westbrook)
(DAILY WORLD) -- Motorists paid the highest pump prices ever for a Labor Day weekend, a result of the largest August increase in seven years and a lingering Hurricane Isaac hike.
It's unclear when gas prices will decline, but they've decreased five of the past 10 Septembers, according to AAA. Thirty-three million Americans traveled 50 miles or more this Labor Day weekend, AAA said, and 28.2 million traveled by car.
"It has been a really tough summer for drivers nationwide with high gas prices breaking daily records," AAA spokesperson Avery Ash said in a news release. "Every week there seems to be something new driving up gas prices, whether it is a major refinery fire, a pipeline closure or a Gulf Coast hurricane."
In Lafayette, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $3.67 Monday, according to AAA. That did not deter Myrica Lafleur of Baton Rouge from making the trek to Houston this weekend with a vehicle full of children. She stopped in Lafayette to fill up her tank.
"When you're traveling, you don't have a choice in the matter, so you just pay what it is, especially when you're traveling with children," she said.
Driving is still cheaper than flying, she said: "If I just take my two little ones, I still have to buy a seat for each of them."
Nationwide, gasoline prices rose 30.8 cents in August. The three main factors driving gas prices in August were crude oil costs, regional supply problems in the Midwest and West Coast caused by refinery and pipeline disruptions, and Gulf Coast refinery closures forced by Isaac, according to AAA.
Prices have been so high that all Mallory Olivier could do was shrug at the price at the pump.
"It's not much higher. It's been as high as $3.69," he said.
Isaac pushed the national average gasoline price up 10 cents per gallon in one week, including a 5 cent gain Wednesday that was the biggest one-day gain since February 2011.
Gas prices everywhere rose because of Isaac, with the price per gallon increase between 5 and 15 cents depending on the area, said Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.
"The key point to keep in mind is that this was not a prolonged crisis. It doesn't take the refineries that long to get back up to full speed," he said.
Contrary to popular belief that prices always rise during major holiday weekends, a GasBuddy.com analysis of Labor Day weekend prices from 2001 through 2011 showed that the national average price of gas actually declined in 10 of the last 11 years, said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for the website.
In three of those years, the decline was nominal, by 0.5 cents per gallon or less. In 2006, prices fell 3.3 cents per gallon from Friday through Monday. In 2002, gasoline rose 2.6 cents over the Labor Day Weekend. That was the only year when prices increases, according to the GasBuddy.com analysis.
Experts were unsure how long it will take prices to fall.
"It is difficult to say how gas prices will fluctuate," Briggs said. "We are moving into a season where the refineries will be changing out the types of fuels that are used. With gas prices, there are many different contributing factors. However, Labor Day is around the time that refineries begin looking at the winter blends of gas, moving away from the summer blends that tend to be pricer to the consumer."
AAA expects prices to drop this month as refineries resume operation, and gasoline demand decreases following the end of the summer driving season and refineries transition to the production of less-expensive winter-blend fuels.
"While prices should drop in September barring any major developments, we expect gasoline to remain at or near-record highs through the end of 2012," Ash said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.