Blame South America, where demand is strong - and where U.S. refiners have found a ready audience. Actually, demand for gas in the U.S. is down 4 percent from last year, but global demand has more than made up for that. From the LAT:
Even though oil and refined fuel prices climbed to record highs in 2008, they quickly fell afterward. That is not the case this year. "We are at the highest fuel prices ever for this time of year, even though they have dropped a bit in recent weeks," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey, who made the $489-billion projection. "I think we will see prices in 2012 that will break the records set in 2008."
An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $3.915, up a couple of pennies from last week, according to the government's survey. Even at this fairly high level, growth is probably being constrained, and if prices move higher in 2012, those constraints could become more apparent. Very hard to pin blame in any particular direction - it's not the fault of South American businesses that their demand is strong, and it's not the fault of American refiners that they want a higher price.