Well, it's official.

Despite news last week of a sudden drop in the wholesale price of oil, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. rose to precisely $4 a gallon, according to the respected Lundberg Report.

That's 12 cents higher than just two weeks ago. Your price will likely be different, depending on what state you live in.

Some analysts speculate that $4 or perhaps $4.50 will be the tipping point at which consumers change their driving patterns, working harder to combine trips, ride with friends, or otherwise reduce the miles they cover in whatever vehicles they own.

Helped by several competitive new entries--the 2011 Hyundai Elantra and 2011 Chevy Cruze among them--the compact car segment has been hot over the last few months. Sales of large pickup trucks (mostly to businesses) have recently begun to level off.

With the Japanese auto industry still trying to get its plants in Japan back onto regular production schedules, supplies of high-mileage hybrids like the 2011 Toyota Prius will be limited through the summer--in the face of rising demand.

Gas pump with dollars

Gas pump with dollars

The 2011 Prius is the gasoline car with the highest EPA-rated gas mileage, at a combined 50 mpg rating.

Its EPA ratings for fuel efficiency are topped only by the two plug-in electric cars now on sale (both of them with long waiting lists as well), the 2011 Nissan Leaf and the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Last week's oil-price drop may lead to some temporary easing in gas prices, as the reduction ripples through the system.

But don't count on gas prices falling back to the levels they were at just a year ago: slightly under $3 a gallon.

Boy ... that seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

[Reuters via Yahoo! News via TheCarConnection]


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