Gasoline prices are expected to creep higher for the second consecutive year, costing U.S. motorists billions of dollars more in higher fuel costs.
Even though prices will rise, motorists will still be paying less than they did earlier this decade.
The price of a gallon of self-serve regular gas will average $2.57 nationally in 2018, according to a GasBuddy.com forecast provided to USA TODAY. That would mark an 18-cent jump from 2017's average of $2.39 and a 45-cent jump from 2016's decade low of $2.12. But it's still far below 2012's record of $3.60.
For a 15-gallon fill-up, motorists will pay an extra $2.70 in 2018 compared to 2017.
The typical American household will spend about $1,898 on gas in 2018, up from $1,765 in 2017, according to the forecast by GasBuddy, an app with 70 million downloads that provides information on fuel prices and availability at nearby stations.
Overall that translates into $364.6 billion spent on gasoline this year, marking an increase of $25.4 billion.
Across the U.S., prices generally will be highest on the West Coast and East Coast. Prices could top out as high as $3.95 a gallon for self-serve unleaded in San Francisco, $3.65 in Los Angeles, $3.40 in Washington and $3.35 in Chicago.
"I don't think much of the country will see a return to $3, but there's a possibility that some places" will top it, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said.
Houston will top out at $2.65; Boston and Dallas-Fort Worth both at $2.70; and Phoenix at $2.75, according to GasBuddy.
Like usual, prices are expected to hit their highest point in the spring as the travel season kicks into high gear.
Americans can blame the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for much of the increase. OPEC's November deal to extend production cuts first agreed upon in late 2016 has fueled momentum for oil prices.
Higher oil prices typically translate into higher gas prices.
"The production cut has worked in their favor," DeHaan said. "OPEC tightening production has reined in low oil prices."
On Tuesday morning, oil prices edged toward levels not seen since mid-2015 after Iran protests conjured speculation about geopolitical instability. The price briefly topped $61 before heading back into the $60 range.
For a commodity that's often affected more by fears of the future than assessments of the present, the Iran protests were enough to spawn conjecture about unforeseen volatility.
"In the short-term the market is still vulnerable to more upside," JBC Energy analysts said Tuesday in a research note.
But don't expect it to affect gas prices drastically, DeHaan said.
Even if Iran oil production is limited, the country's political rival, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. oil producers can likely make up the difference, limiting the spillover effects.
U.S. producers, in fact, are among the beneficiaries of higher oil prices and higher gas prices. Energy companies ranging from global petroleum giants to mom-and-pop shale-oil riggers in Texas are poised to reap the benefits if oil avoids the lows of 2016, when the commodity briefly plunged below $30 per barrel.
American oil companies laid off tens of thousands of workers in 2016 to make up for their corresponding losses. But in 2018 they are expected to remain stable or even add jobs if oil stays steady or heads upward.