Gas prices have jumped since Christmas, a result of global factors

You can find and compare the cheapest gas prices near you on our Pain at the Pump page.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Gas prices are up 68 cents nationwide since Christmas. That means the average driver has to shell out an additional $361 per year in gas, according to the EPA.

Add that to higher taxes for many this year, and what would have been left as disposable income is all but spent.

The recent climb in prices has to do with predictions investors are making on Wall Street, among other things, according to Michael Fields with the SC Petroleum Marketers Association.

"OPEC -- they're cutting their production by a million barrels a day," said Fields. "There's some refineries that are down for maintenance. There's some refineries that are closing down. All of those things have an impact on prices, and unfortunately, that hurts consumers in South Carolina."

With gas prices so high and competition between gas stations so close, many stations are relying on convenience store purchases to make a reasonable profit.

"There's a lot of gamesmanship going on on the retail side on trying to get as many customers as you can in there to buy," said Fields. "The main thing that folks need to understand: local petroleum marketers aren't making a whole lot of money on a gallon of gas. We need you to come inside."

According to Fields, there are too many influencing factors in the global market to make an accurate prediction of future gas prices. For now, people can save money by paying with cash instead of a card and driving as little as possible.

You can find and compare the cheapest gas prices near you on our Pain at the Pump page.