What a fine way to kick off 2012: with some apocalyptic gas prices to sucker-punch an already battered economy.

Over the last three weeks, California company Lundberg Survey Inc. finds that gas prices have risen just over 12 cents across the nation. And Lundberg's president tells Bloomberg Businessweek that we can expect “5 to 7 cents more in price hikes” down the line.

What's more, Los Angeles — car capital of the world — has been blessed with the highest gas prices of all.

Stations throughout L.A. are averaging $3.69 per gallon, reports Lundberg. That's almost a dollar more than in Salt Lake City, Utah, which bottoms out the national range at $2.86.

Wonderful! These may not be the $5-per-gallon doomsday predictions we were getting a couple years ago, but that doesn't mean they're anywhere near affordable.

From Bloomberg:

It was the first increase in survey results since the period that ended Oct. 21. Prices are 27.84 cents higher than a year earlier, when the average was $3.0812.

… Prices rose as crude oil surged 8.6 percent and as a government subsidy on ethanol expired Dec. 31. The subsidy, enacted in 1978, gave a 45-cent tax credit to refiners for each gallon of the biofuel blended into gasoline.

California, in particular, has been a place of extremes throughout this Great Recession: It's home to some of the richest residents in the world, (many of whom are able to skip out on paying their taxes), yet at the same time, we have an uncommonly high unemployment rate.

Maybe that's why Occupy L.A. eventually grew into an even greater force than Occupy Wall Street — because the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 is so painfully apparent here, in California's largest urban center. Hollywood luxury suites tower over homeless camps, and it's never quite clear whether the obnoxious helicopter overhead belongs to a team of homicide investigators or paparazzi.

And now, in the most public-transit-challenged big city in America (that we, uh, know of), options are running out for fueling an already painful commute. Not to be super morbid, but perhaps it's better that the Mayans be right about 2012.

Or we could just ride our bikes, or whatever.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

LA Weekly