Squeezing Pennies at the Pump: Gas Prices Spike Nationwide to Two and a Half Year High

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REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

It’s tradition: When something goes wrong in the world, you will find out when you go to fill up your car.

Gas prices nationwide are nearing record highs, following the second largest two-week jump in the history of the gasoline market. The average price for regular is $3.51, up 15 cents in the past week and 33 cents in the past two weeks. The only bigger jump on record — of 38 cents between August and September 2005 — was due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

(More on TIME.com: See who wins when gas prices skyrocket)

The current increases are due to recent unrest in Libya. Although the North African oil producer only sends 3% of its exports to the U.S., the global economic link is still palpable at the American pump. Demand for crude oil has increased as importers reliant on Libya look elsewhere.

Gas prices are a long way from reaching the July 2008 spike, which peaked at $4.51 per gallon. However, due to continuing violence in Libya and fear that violence may spread to other Middle Eastern oil exporters we may see another 10 to 15 cent increase in the short-term.

Analysts fear that the high price of oil could prevent the economy’s recovery. The White House is reportedly considering tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to ease pressure on Americans.

According to GasBuddy.com, the highest average prices in the country are in Hawaii ($3.96 per gallon), followed by California ($3.89 per gallon). The lowest prices are in Wyoming ($3.19 per gallon) and Montana ($3.26 per gallon). Santa Barbara, Ca. is the most expensive gas city in the country ($4.03 per gallon). Billings, Mt. is the least expensive ($3.20 per gallon). State fuel taxes cause such discrepancies between states. NewsFeed bets Santa Barbara residents wish they lived a little closer to Billings this week.

(More on TIME.com: See who’s to blame for soaring gas prices)