All these bottlenecks causing price increases at the pump are worsened by a weak U.S. dollar that leaves consumers with less purchasing power and the fact that the recent end of the payroll holiday amounts to a pay cut for 160 million Americans, Laskoski adds.
How much more can gas prices climb from here? It's anyone's guess, but $4-a-gallon gas by April shouldn't be ruled out of the picture, experts say. Projections made by GasBuddy, a online gas-price comparison site, put peak spring prices at between $3.80 and $3.95 a gallon, a forecast Laskoski now calls "conservative."
"We can certainly foresee $4 per gallon gas," Laskoski says. "We can't rule that out."
Faulkner agrees: "Gas prices will continue to rise—we will test the $4 mark or even go above. California has already seen gas prices above $5 a gallon."
But as much as $4 a gallon sound scary to consumers now, the norms are changing Breitling says. Back when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, gas was around $1.89 a gallon and when it began to rise, some said the nation would see a dramatic shift in driving habits with more people riding bikes or using public transit. That hasn't really been the case, after 10 years of higher gas prices, which have made consumers increasingly numb to sky-high gas prices.
"$4 [a gallon gas] used to be freak-out time," Faulkner says. "Now it's close to that and folks are saying, 'Well, I guess that's just the new norm.' As a nation we've almost become numb to these kinds of numbers."