Fuel prices close in on last year's high mark

NEW YORK — The price of gasoline is less than a dime away from last year's high.

Gas reached a nationwide average of $3.90 per gallon on Monday. It has risen 17 cents so far this month. Pump prices are expected to keep rising in the weeks before Memorial Day weekend — the traditional kickoff of the summer driving season.

The national average peaked last year in early May at $3.98 per gallon. The record high of $4.11 was set in July 2008.

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, expects that at the very least "we're going to get very close to the record." He said prices could keep climbing through June if a potential Sunoco refinery closure in Philadelphia significantly tightens East Coast supplies of gasoline.

The price of gasoline has tracked the price of crude oil. Benchmark U.S. crude has gone up 8 percent already in 2012. Oil rose 16 cents Monday to $107.03 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil imported by U.S. refineries, added 52 cents to finish at $125.65 per barrel in London.

Oil has risen this year as Western nations confront Iran over its nuclear program. They fear that Iran is building a weapon, though it denies the claim. Western leaders are trying to cut off Iran's oil revenues through an embargo and a variety of other sanctions in the hope of forcing it to negotiate.

Iran is the world's third-largest oil exporter. Oil traders say that concerns about a prolonged standoff, and reduced Iranian exports, has added about $15 to $17 per barrel to the price of oil.

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