Will there be a return to $4 gas?

HOUSTON So, do the rising prices mean we are in for sky high costs at the pump this summer?

Any price increase is bad for us, but it is sometimes good for business in Houston. There are a group of people in town this week who are fairly certain that the oil business is getting better, the Houston energy sector may be improving and it can happen without costing you more.

On a dreary gray day, it's hard to think to think about summer driving, it's probably hard to think about spring break and that's next week.

However, this year it'll cost University of Houston sophomore Richard Rost more to drive to Pecos to visit his uncle than it did last year.

AAA says Houston gas prices are 80 cents higher from this point last year. Blame it on a recovering economy, warming weather and higher crude prices. But it's not nearly as bad as it once was.

"I am going to start getting worried when it gets to $4," said Rost.

A return to $4 gallons is unlikely according to a group of energy experts meeting in Houston this week and there's even better news in the long term future.

"The US and the OECD, the developed world, have really achieved what we think is peak demand," said Jamey Rosenfield of the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Rosenfield is the co-founder of IHS CERA, the group putting on the CERAWeek 2010 conference in town starting Monday. It's bringing together 2,000 heavy hitters in the energy business.

He told us Monday afternoon a return to $4 gallons isn't likely. Americans and Europeans are driving less and being more efficient, so we're not sucking up as much oil.

Rosenfield and the group gathered here are trying to figure out how much China and India will use in the future and how that might change the business, but they're fairly certain it won't drive up your price. In fact, the changes and improving economy might be good for Houston.

"There will be a new phase of investment in the industry. There will be more jobs. There will be a raft of new technologies," said Rosenfield.

The experts at IHS CERA say a great deal of new energy technology is being developed in Houston.

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