As January gas prices jump to $3.49 a gallon or more for regular unleaded, it could mean a major problem by spring and the end of the year.

“That’s cause for concern,” says Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. “Why? For the past seven years, the average price movement from the beginning of the year to the peak price posted during the year has been $0.93 cents per gallon, and as high as $1.31 per gallon.”

With the highest prices usually during the summer because of consumer use for vacations and travel, world problems ― especially with oil-producing nations ― can cause fluctuation anytime.

“While past performance is no indication of future prices, if the national average doesn’t move closer toward or under $3 per gallon, we could be paying over $4 a gallon by spring,” said Patrick DeHaan, another petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.

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