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Gas prices are off to a fast start in 2012.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is up more than 8 percent since the end of 2011, rising from $3.25 per gallon to $3.52, according to new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

While gas prices tend to rise through the first half of the year, this is the earliest the average price per gallon has breached the $3.50 mark. If this pace continues, the national average should hit $4 a gallon by May, if not sooner. The last time the average price did so in the U.S. was summer 2008, when the price of oil hit $140 a barrel. Last year gas prices approached $4, hitting an average of $3.98 in April, before falling.

 



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