U.S. average retail gasoline prices hit an all-time high Mar 23, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). The average price for regular gasoline at the nation’s pumps was $1.738 per gallon, up less than a cent from the previous record hit last September, according to the motorist group's survey of more than 60,000 stations. U.S. stockpiles are near their lowest levels since the 1970s while an economic recovery spurs higher demand. Oil producer group OPEC, which controls roughly half of the world’s exported crude, is mulling whether to further cut global supplies starting April 1, adding to a series of production cuts that have brought oil prices to nearly $40 a barrel. The U.S. government showed gasoline prices on Mar. 22 less than half a cent from the all-time high, and predicted prices would average a record $1.83 per gallon in April and May during the run-up to the summer driving season when Americans typically take to the road. Guy Caruso, head of the Energy Information Administration, said at an oil industry meeting in San Antonio Mar. 21 that he was “really concerned” about thin U.S. gasoline inventories, which are running about 13 million barrels lower than the agency had projected. The volatile gasoline landscape has drawn the attention of lawmakers from both political parties, making it a likely issue in this presidential election year. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon reintroduced a bill Mar.22 requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to act on what he called anti-competitive industry pricing policies. Earlier this month, the FTC opened an informal probe into California’s retail gasoline prices — the highest in the nation — at the urging of Sen. Barbara Boxer of California (D-CA). Oil and gas refiners have denied using anti-competitive practices, instead blaming high prices on tight supplies caused by dozens of different gasoline-blending rules for metropolitan areas and the lack of enough imports of the motor fuel.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials