The average retail price of gasoline climbed 2 cents last week to $1.74 per gallon, the Energy Department said on March 8, about a penny shy of the highest price since the department began collecting data, according to the Associated Press.

Together, the high prices for crude oil, strong demand, and low commercial inventories made gasoline expensive this winter. Analysts expect those same trends to be in place this summer, the peak driving season.

Also, this is the time of year when supplies tend to tighten as refineries shut down temporarily for maintenance before ramping up production of special blends of cleaner-burning gasoline for summer.

The average nationwide price of regular unleaded gasoline was $1.738 for the week ending March 8 – 2.1 cents higher than the previous week, the EIA said on March 8. The price was 2.6 cents per gallon higher than last year, according to the Associated Press report.

It was the third highest weekly price since the Energy Department began collecting data in 1990. The last time the price was higher was the week that ended Sept. 1, 2003, when regular gasoline averaged $1.746 per gallon. A week before that, the price averaged $1.747.

Gasoline is most expensive on the West Coast, where it averaged $2.026 per gallon, and least expensive in the Gulf Coast, where it averaged $1.613 per gallon.

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