As crude oil futures hit a new 29-month high Monday, diesel prices took another big leap this week, 15.5 cents, to a national average of $3.871 per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That's the 14th hike in a row and nearly 97 cents higher than it was a year ago.
Diesel is over $4 per  gallon in some parts of the country. (Photo by Jim Park.)
Diesel is over $4 per gallon in some parts of the country. (Photo by Jim Park.)

Crude for April delivery neared $107 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday before falling to end the day at $105.44. The close was the highest since late September 2008. The run-up is blamed on fighting in Libya, as government forces battle protesters for control of key towns and ports. Analysts say until it becomes clear that Libya can export the oil it produces, the world is facing an export shortfall of about 1 million barrels a day.

The average price of diesel topped $4 in many parts of the country, according to the weekly report of retail on-highway diesel prices from the DOE's Energy Information Administration: California at $4.122, the West Coast region and New England both at $4.046, and the Central Atlantic region at $4.014. Even the lowest prices were above $3.80, with the Gulf Coast region at $3.812 and the Midwest at $3.823.

Gasoline prices rose nearly 33 cents in a two-week period, according to the latest Lundberg Survey, which showed the national average for a price of self-serve unloaded at $3.51. That's the biggest jump since a 38-cent hike between August and September of 2005, which was driven by Hurricane Katrina.

Later in the week, a planned demonstration against Saudi Arabia's government could kick oil prices higher.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley Sunday said the government is looking at options, including the possibility of releasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But the White House emphasized Monday that rising oil and fuel costs will not be the "sole factor" in that decision. Such a decision would have to be based on the possibility of a "major disruption" of oil production, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.