MANCHESTER — The midsummer relief from rising gas prices is over.
Gas prices in New Hampshire are right back on pace to make 2012 the most expensive driving year on record.
According to the American Automobile Association, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded last week in New Hampshire was $3.69, up more than 22 cents from the month before.
“We saw relief through the summer which is not typically the time we see the relief,” said Pat Long, spokesman for AAA Northern New England.
Last week's average was about 4 cents higher than the price at the same time in 2011, when the end-of-the year national average peaked at a record $3.51. The 2012 average last week was $3.61, even with the surprising cost decrease of more than 40 cents per gallon motorists enjoyed from April through July.
Even during Memorial Day weekend, the start of the peak summer driving season, drivers were paying much less than in March and April when the average price was inching closer to the $4 per gallon mark.
“We saw an extremely early spring rally,” Long said. “We almost couldn't call it spring.”
Despite the fluctuation over the last few months, the 2012 average remains high because of the costly stretch during the first three months of the year.
“It just changed so much over the last few months. I can't even remember what it was,” said Manchester resident Chris Calabro as he filled up his Honda Civic at the Lakeview Gulf station off Rt. 101.
Analysts say surging oil prices internationally have been pushing the costs for consumers to fill up at the gas pump. State taxes and supply and demand also contribute to the price and how it can vary from region to region.
While on par with the national trend, New Hampshire's average price for 2012 was $3.595, about 1.6 cents lower than the U.S. average last week. It was also almost 10 cents less than the average in neighboring Maine ($3.6920).
And New England drivers who are feeling the pinch as Labor Day weekend approaches can take a little comfort in knowing others have it worse in places like Illinois ($4.05) and California ($4.115).
Calabro was just thankful he and his wife both drive Civics and average about 35 miles per gallon. He commutes from Manchester to Hollis and said to cost to run even the 4-cylinder engine back-and-forth each day adds up quickly.
“It's one of those things,” Calabro said as he topped off his red Civic on Friday for $3.739/gallon. “I've got to drive to work, so I've got to fill up. Nothing I can do.”