While we were sleeping and wondering whether or not Christine O'Donnell is going to be on Dancing With The Stars....
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate for April delivery gained $1.23 at $98.20 per barrel at midday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude gained $1.74 at $113.54 per barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange.
The recent surge in oil has pushed up gasoline prices in the U.S. by nearly 20 cents per gallon in the past week. That's the sharpest increase since 2005, according to the Oil Price Information Service. Americans are now paying roughly $75.6 million more per day to fill up than a week ago.
The national average added another penny on Tuesday at $3.375 per gallon. Prices should keep rising to between $3.50 and $3.75 by spring, according to OPIS oil analyst Tom Kloza. He said future increases will be much more gradual, because gasoline markets have mostly priced in the recent rise in crude. "So we should flatten out" in coming weeks, Kloza said.
Oil prices surged 13 percent last week, peaking above $100 per barrel, as Libyan protesters expanded their control over the country. While the Libyan uprising continued Tuesday, news agencies reported that Iranian authorities imprisoned opposition leaders in Tehran. Iranian authorities denied the reports.
Pro-reform groups have clashed with the Iranian government. Jailing opposition leaders would be a major escalation of the country's political crisis. Iran exports about 2.5 million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids per day, about 3 percent of global demand.
The Iran protests are among the latest uprisings that have churned through North Africa and the Middle East, a crucial region that's responsible for most of the world's crude exports. Analysts say it's impossible to say how long it will take for uprisings to play out, but energy markets likely will be on edge through the summer.
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