Gasoline prices have shot up in the Midwest the past week, with Madison drivers paying an average $3.86 a gallon on Monday compared to $3.67 a week ago, according to AAA.
The news in Eau Claire is worse. Drivers in the northwest Wisconsin city are paying $4.12 a gallon, breaking the close to five-year record of $4.09 set in July 2008, right at the beginning of the economic downturn.
Why the high prices? Gasoline traditionally goes up around Memorial Day which is one week from now, because it's the unofficial start of the summer vacation driving season.
This year, other reasons are being added to the inflation at the pump, according to GasBuddy.com oil analyst Tom Kloza in an article Monday in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
A chief reason, Kloza said, is scheduled maintenance at refineries, which can take facilities off line for weeks at a time. There also is low mid-spring inventories in Midwest states, making for a gas crunch here.
In Madison, MadisonGasPrices.com reported on Monday the range for regular went from $3.73 to $4.09 a gallon, with most stations selling between $3.79 and $3.89.
In the Twin Cities, gas is selling for $4.31 a gallon, the Business Journal said. That's 90 cents a gallon more than a month ago.
Gasoline costs more in Minnesota than in California.
"I don't believe I've ever seen gasoline prices in the Midwest surpass California," said GasBuddy.com analyst Patrick DeHaan.
Auto club AAA said Wisconsin's average price for regular on Monday was $3.92 a gallon, up 45 cents in one month.
The national average is $3.65 a gallon.
Eau Claire has the highest average of the six metro areas monitored in Wisconsin by AAA, while La Crosse had the second highest average at $3.94 and Janesville-Beloit the lowest at $3.82.
In the Midwest, Minnesota leads the way at $4.27 a gallon, followed by Illinois at $4.05, Iowa at $4.02, Wisconsin at $3.92, Michigan at $3.88, Indiana at $3.86 and Ohio at $3.83.