(Newsroom America) -- If you're feeling the pinch a little more at the pump these days, it's because gasoline prices have never been as high as they are now, on average, for this time of year.
Moreover, the higher prices are going to have an effect on the rest of the economy as well, as more Americans will stay put this summer because they can't afford to drive as much.
"You're going to see a lot more staycations this year," Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, told The Associated Press. "When the price gets anywhere near $4, you really see people react."
The national average price has hit $3.521 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, a price-tracking Web site. Last year this time, the average price was $3.169.
Worse, since the U.S. is a net importer of most of its oil, every dollar that is spent to import is another dollar taken out of the U.S. economy, analysts say. At at time when economic growth is anemic, that's a big deal.
The price of gasoline has already become a campaign issue. Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich talked about it several times this week on the campaign trail, saying he would like to see more federal land opened to oil exploration and drilling, as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources and lower prices.
"Our goals should be to get gasoline to $2.50 or less so that working families can actually get to work and retired families can travel," Gingrich said Thursday in Los Angeles.
In all, prices have risen about 83 percent during President Obama's first term.
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