The recent dark clouds weren't the only thing looking ominous to AAA Nevada spokesman Michael Geeser. He is also worried about the December spike in Las Vegas-area gasoline prices.
The average price of unleaded regular gasoline was $3.04 a gallon in the Las Vegas area on Wednesday, the highest this year. The last time prices peaked around Christmas and New Year's, they shot to a record high of $4.28 a gallon the following June, he said.
"Does that mean we're going to break a record (in 2011)?" Geeser asked. "I don't know. It's not a great sign for consumers."
The average was also at $3.04 between Dec. 14 and Dec. 18. It's unusual for gasoline prices to reach their annual high point in the winter, Geeser said. That usually happens during the summer vacation season. Gasoline prices are 11 cents higher than a month ago, he said.
A survey of drivers in Mountain West states, including Nevada, showed a 2.4 percent increase in trips of 50 miles or more from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2 compared to last year. Yet travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend jumped 10 percent.
Holiday travel was also up for the Memorial Day weekend, July Fourth and Labor Day weekends, the first increases in the past few years, he said.
Nevada usually ranks in the top five states for gasoline prices, Geeser said, but the state ranked 10th on Dec. 14.
Geeser attributed the current price of gasoline to higher oil costs.
The price of a barrel of crude oil for December delivery rose $1.03 Thursday to close at $91.51 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. But oil reached $147 a barrel in 2008 when gasoline prices hit a record high of $4.28 in Las Vegas.
Demand for gasoline domestically is down, but worldwide gasoline demand is up, he said.
Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.