Local gas prices

The Charleston-North Charleston area had the highest gas prices as of Friday in South Carolina: $3.32 per gallon of regular unleaded.

Myrtle Beach was the cheapest place to fill up, with an average of $3.22.

Source: fuelgaugereport.com

Gasoline prices are getting an early start on their annual spring march higher, and commuters and day-trippers may do a double-take this weekend,

The reason: Friday brought the biggest one-day pop in pump prices in nearly two years. The nationwide average price for a gallon of gas jumped 4 cents overnight to $3.46 a gallon from Thursday, according to AAA. That makes a three-day gain of 10 cents. The average in South Carolina was $3.26 Friday, the travel club said. The culprits: Rising crude oil prices, slowing output at refineries that are undergoing maintenance, and low supplies of gasoline.

These are the kinds of things that push gasoline prices higher every spring after what is normally a lull in the late fall and early winter. But a heavy schedule of January maintenance at West Coast refineries has led to sharply higher prices there.

Meanwhile, low inventories have pushed prices higher on the East Coast.

And rising crude oil prices, fueled by stronger economic growth and higher expectations for energy usage, have pushed prices higher throughout the country.

“I’m not surprised at what I’m seeing, but I am surprised it’s coming early,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

Overall, gas prices are now up 17 cents this year. At the retail level, they have risen for 15 days straight, according to AAA, Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

So far in 2013, gas has been cheaper than it was last year. But that could change by this weekend as stations pass along their higher wholesale costs to drivers.

But consider this as you fill up on your way to a Super Bowl party this weekend: Analyst Stephen Schork notes that while gasoline prices may seem high, they haven’t risen nearly as fast as tickets to the big game. When the first Super Bowl was played 46 years ago, gasoline cost about 32 cents per gallon and Super Bowl tickets cost $10. Now gasoline is $3.42 and a seat in a distant corner of the Superdome costs $2,236 on the ticket-reselling site StubHub.

Put another way, a ticket to the Super Bowl in 1966 was worth about 31 gallons of gasoline then, enough for 2 fill-ups. A ticket to Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans is worth 650 gallons — enough to fill a mid-size sedan 43 times.

Which makes gasoline, according to Schork, “a bargain.”