LOS ANGELES — Damage to Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines by Hurricane Katrina pushed retail gas prices to historic highs in the past two weeks, with self-serve regular averaging more than $3 a gallon for the first time ever, according to a nationwide survey released Sunday.
The weighted average price for all three grades surged more than 38 cents to nearly $3.04 a gallon between Aug. 26 and Sept. 9, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations around the country.
Self-serve regular averaged $3.01 a gallon nationwide, according to the survey. Midgrade was pegged at about $3.11, while premium-grade was at nearly $3.21.
"That's all thanks to Katrina," Lundberg said.
The spike occurred despite declines in the cost of crude oil in recent weeks.
The hurricane decimated refineries along the Gulf Coast, cutting 11 percent of the nation's refining capacity for all petroleum products and shutting down essential pipelines to the East Coast and elsewhere, Lundberg said.
On Saturday, more than 120 Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms were still closed and nearly 60 percent of the Gulf of Mexico's normal daily oil production remained blocked from the market because of evacuations due to Hurricane Katrina, the federal Minerals Management Service said.
Adjusted for inflation, the nation's previous high weighted average for all three grades was $1.38 a gallon in March 1981. That would be $3.03 in current dollars.
Lundberg said prices could drop sharply in the coming weeks by 10 cents or more as gasoline imports flow in and demand eases with the traditional September drop-off, fewer drivers in storm-stricken areas and other consumers limiting trips to the pump.