Motorists in the U.S. paid record high prices for gasoline in 2012, as severe weather and political tensions drove up the cost of fuel.
The national average price of gasoline in 2012 was $3.60 a gallon, nine cents more than the previous annual record set last year, said Heathrow, Florida-based AAA, the nation's largest motoring group.
"Factors as volatile as major hurricanes, refinery outages and tension in the Middle East resulted in significant frustration for people filling up their cars," Avery Ash, a spokesman for AAA, said in an e-mailed statement.
The highest daily national average of the year was $3.94 a gallon on April 5 and 6. The low was $3.22 a gallon on Dec. 20. Hawaii, Alaska and California were the three most expensive states, while South Carolina, Missouri and Mississippi were the cheapest.
The motoring group said drivers should have relief in 2013. December prices averaged $3.30 a gallon nationally, the lowest of the year. Prices in 2013 probably will be less than in 2012 because of increased domestic crude production and lower demand, Ash said.
If U.S. legislators fail to reach a budget deal, the economy could fall into a recession, further depressing price forecasts for next year, he said.