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Area’s gas prices end year on a high note

Gas prices all over moved up slightly overnight, according to AAA.

Gas prices all over moved up slightly overnight, according to AAA.

The five-county Philadelphia area was averaging $2.71 a gallon today, up 1 cent. A year ago, the average was $1.69.

South Jersey's average ended the year at $2.50, up 1 cent; the average a year ago was $1.45.

The national average was up 2 cents, to $2.64. That exceeds a dollar more than it was last year at this time: $1.62.

The Philly area's diesel average was unchanged, at $3.01. South Jersey's diesel was averaging $2.79, up 1 cent.

And the national diesel average was up 1 cent, to $2.81.

AAA's Mid-Atlantic club urges New Year's Eve celebrators to be mindful of drinking and driving tonight, suggesting that revelers have a designated driver (yes, there is virtue in that), and if that's not possible, use mass transit, calling a taxi or asking a friend to drive you home if you've had too much to drink.

Meanwhile, oil prices hit $80 a barrel for the first time in seven weeks as the dollar sank on the final day of the year.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added 61 cents at $79.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil jumped as high as $80 a barrel earlier in the day. It hasn't traded for that much since Nov. 11.

Trading volume has been especially light this week, however, as many investors already closed the books on 2009.

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration said that natural gas stockpiles dropped for the fourth straight week. The nation's supply is still well above the five-year average, however, and last week's draw of 124 billion cubic feet was less than what analysts expected.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil rose 2.18 cents to $2.1311 a gallon and gasoline advanced 1.59 cents to $2.0565 a gallon.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery rose 41 cents to $78.44 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.