Prices at the gas pump in New Jersey are about 12 cents higher than the same time last year, but they should settle down as we get further from New Year's Day and deeper into winter.

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Unfortunately, today's prices aren't what you should worry about, according to a petroleum industry expert.

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, believes the average price for a gallon of regular gas could spike by as much as 50 cents between the dead of winter and the spring-summer driving season — thanks to increased demand and refinery maintenance that was put off last year due to Hurricane Harvey in the southern portion of the country.

"We think prices are going to top out nationally at $2.75-$2.85, and I would throw New Jersey into that mix as well," Kloza said of 2018.

The rate per gallon currently sits at a bit above $2.55 per gallon in the Garden State. That rate is expected to give way to low demand. People drive about 15 percent less than they do during the warmer months, Kloza said.

For 2017, prices in New Jersey peaked at just under $2.80 in September, according to GasBuddy. Drivers paid less than $2.30 per gallon for much of June and July.

Following an "explosive move" in prices, the state should see them shift lower in the second half of 2018, Kloza said.

Similar to his predictions for the country as a whole, Kloza said the average price for a gallon of regular in New Jersey will be around $2.45 in 2018.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.