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Gas prices that make the Grinch happy

Consumers are finding that filling the gas tank can drain the holiday budget.

Consumers are finding that filling the gas tank can drain the holiday budget.

A little relief might be in sight, however, as crude oil prices backed off today from a new two-year high.

At the pump, gasoline has gone up 19 cents in the last month in Philadelphia and its four suburban counties, while South Jersey saw an 18-cent hike and the nation 12 cents, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

At many Pennsylvania stations, and some in Jersey, even a gallon of regular has climbed to $3 a gallon or more.

In Southeast Pennsylvania, the cheapest for regular is $2.97 a gallon at seven stations, and that includes three members-only BJ's Wholesale Clubs, according to

Premium was even up to $3.66 a gallon at a Sunoco at Ridge Avenue and 33d Street in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city.

In South Jersey, where gas taxes are lower, the range is from about $2.77 for regular to $3.49 at a Voorhees Shell.

Prices, though, are far short of the record highs of more than $4 a gallon that were reached in the summer of 2008, according to AAA.

Tuesday, crude hit $90.76 a barrel, the highest mark since October 2008, but profit-taking soon led the price to drop to $88.04.

Pump prices usually follow the cost of crude up and down.

The longer outlook isn't so promising, as some experts are forecasting that $100 a barrel could be hit next year.

Wary eyes are waiting to see what happens when OPEC, the oil-producing alliance, meets in Ecuador over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.