Gas prices have crept beyond $3 a gallon in parts of Beaufort County and are expected to keep climbing because of unrest in the oil-rich Middle East.
The South Carolina average on Sunday crossed the $3-per-gallon threshold for the first time in more than two years, according to AAA Carolinas. That's about 50 cents more than a year ago, and prices aren't likely to drop anytime soon.
Neil Gamson, an economist at the federal Energy Information Administration, expects prices to continue to increase through spring and summer.
"We don't see prices under $3 for the next two years," Gamson said.
However, price aren't likely to spike, either. The EIA sees only a 10 percent chance of gas returning to $4 a gallon this summer.
South Carolina still has some of the cheapest gas in the country, but there's no indication prices will get better as long as overseas turmoil continues, said Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas.
"The fear, whether it materializes or not, affects the markets negatively," Crosby said.
Prices spotted Tuesday around Beaufort County ranged from $2.96 to $3.03. A station on Hilton Head Island listed a price of $3.05, according to SouthCarolinaGasPrices.com.
It's not yet clear how much the rising prices will affect the local economy, which relies substantially on tourists, many of whom drive here.
"It's a variable that affects each family in a different way," Crosby said.
Charlie Clark, spokeswoman for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, said spikes in gas prices typically don't discourage travel to the area, although they can affect how much people spend after they arrive.
"Travelers are watching their dollars, but they're still traveling," she said.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services contributed to this report.