WASHINGTON, May 21 (Reuters) US retail gasoline prices hit a record high for the second week in a row and matched the inflation-adjusted peak reached in the early 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, the government said today, as concern about low motor fuel supplies pushed up pump costs.
The average price for regular unleaded gasoline soared 11.5 cents over the last week to a fresh record of $3.22 a gallon, according to the federal Energy Information Administration's nationwide survey of 800 service stations.
The much larger Lundberg industry survey of 7,000 stations showed the national price of gasoline jumped 11.4 cents over the last two weeks to a record $3.18 a gallon.
The latest EIA pump price also equals the all-time high fuel cost of $3.22 a gallon, when adjusted for inflation, reached in March 1981 after war erupted between Iran and Iraq.
Guy Caruso, who heads the EIA, said on Monday that consumers should not expect gasoline prices to begin falling until sometime in June.
Gasoline prices have skyrocketed $1.05 a gallon since the beginning of February and are up 33 cents from a year ago.
With several large refineries down this spring for maintenance or shut by problems, gasoline production has been reduced, cutting into available supplies.
''The main effect on gasoline prices this year is...there's been a significant amount of refineries offline,'' Caruso said.
However, the high pump prices are attracting gasoline imports, which recently hit the fifth highest weekly level ever at 1.5 million barrels a day.
Caruso said he expected imports to remain strong, which will boost supplies and, as more refineries return to operations, put downward pressure on pump prices later this summer.
Many US consumers, especially low-income families, are being hurt financially by the record gasoline costs.
''High gas prices are hitting families hard, but they're also causing our economy to stall and sputter like a jalopy,'' Rep.
Edward Markey of Massachusetts said on Monday. He said the United States must increase its mileage requirements for vehicles to reduce gasoline demand and prices in the long term.
REUTERS KK PM0235