CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — Gasoline prices in Illinois are the highest they’ve ever been for this time of year, with no relief in sight.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, gas prices average $3.22 per gallon in Illinois. AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher says the cold weather is to blame, since demand for crude oil for heating drove the price of oil up to $90 per barrel.

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LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

“We’re well below the $4 mark. We’re not even thinking about that at this point in time,” Mosher said. “But nonetheless, prices are very, very high – almost 40 cents higher than they were at this time last year.”

The highest prices in the area are in suburban Cook County, at $3.37 per gallon. In the city, prices averaged $3.29 a gallon.

Back in the summer of 2008, gas prices spiked at around $4. Far from a mere inconvenience, the fuel price drove up the prices of food and other commodities.

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Some consumers became convinced that the world had reached or passed the dreaded point of “peak oil,” in which the world’s production begins to decline due to skyrocketed demand and dwindling sources. Self-described “Cassandras” warned of an apocalyptic future in which industrial society and the global marketplace would collapse and give way to local micro-economies with backyard farms, abandoned malls and marauding hordes.

Some “peak oil” adherents were expecting oil prices to be skyrocketing to $300 per barrel. But after the economy collapsed in the fall of 2008, the price of oil fell below $40.

Still, one expert says the oil prices, and by extension gas prices, will likely spike higher than they did three years ago. Former Shell president John Hofmeister said he expected gasoline to cost $5 per gallon in 2012, and “the only way for Americans to avoid 5 dollar gasoline is to use less.”

Hofmeister blamed the government’s clampdown on offshore drilling and increased needs for gas in Asia for his predicted drop in supply.

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CBS News contributed to this report.