SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Economists predict gas prices may hit record highs in 2013. In Santa Barbara County, the average price for a gallon of gas is up 9 cents since last week.
Economists say its typical for prices to spike in the spring as refineries switch to a summer blend of gasoline.
But this year, the rise is happening far earlier than usual.
Economist Mark Schniepp attributes the rise to tensions in the middle east, and lower production in the gulf.
Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody's Analytics adds, "nothing does more damage to the economy more quickly than rising gasoline prices. I mean, it's a hit to everyone's pocket book, particularly lower and middle income households."
But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
"Under normal circumstances expect prices to go fall after the seasonal surge," says Schniepp.
To see a list of stations with the lowest prices, go to: gasbuddy.com.