Drivers could see more pain at the pump in the first half of the new year.

A new forecast from GasBuddy predicts that fuel prices could reach as high as $4 per gallon in the first half of the year. The forecast cites supply and demand, as well as pandemic recovery, as being among the most prominent reasons for the price increases.

Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy head of petroleum analysis, said the higher forecast prices were a good sign for the economy.

“While Americans are likely to see higher prices in 2022, it’s a sign that the economy continues to recover from COVID-19,” he said. “The higher prices go, the stronger the economy is. No one would love to see $4 per gallon gasoline, but we’ll only get there on the back of a very strong economy, so it’s not necessarily bad news.

“There remains higher uncertainty than in a non-COVID year, but all signs point to gas prices remaining elevated in 2022 until the high prices attract additional oil supply, which will help prices cool off as we end 2022.”

De Hann said the 2022 yearly national average gas price is expected to rise from $3.02 in 2021 to $3.41 per gallon in 2022.

The GasBuddy 2022 fuel price outlook forecasts the national average price of gasoline will climb early in the year, peaking as high as $4.13 per gallon in June. Prices are predicted to decline later in the year, De Hann said.

GasBuddy’s new forecast says San Francisco will have the biggest hit, with prices there averaging daily between $5.25 per gallon and $5.65 per gallon.

As of Monday morning, the Murphy Express at 103 N.C. 581 had the most expensive fuel listed at $2.95 per gallon. The Murphy USA at 304 N.C. 55 West in Mount Olive had the least expensive listing at $2.84 per gallon.

Other stations in Wayne County with the lowest prices Monday were the Dollar General in Pikeville at $2.87 per gallon; Tommy’s Food Mart on Wayne Memorial Drive at $2.88 per gallon; and Speedway on N.C. 55 in Mount Olive, Walmart Neighborhood Market on Tommy’s Road and the Handy Mart on Breazeale Avenue in Mount Olive, where gas was sold at $2.89 per gallon.

Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson, also said higher fuel prices are expected into the new year.

“For now, it appears these higher gas prices will hang around well into 2022,” Wright said. “Motorists should expect continued volatility at the pump, as prices will likely ebb and flow, based on news about the pandemic and its implications on global supply and demand.”

The average price of fuel in North Carolina started at a low of $2.10 for a gallon of regular unleaded in 2021, Wright said. That number peaked to a high of $3.25 per gallon on Oct. 27.

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