Gas prices continued to soar across North America on Friday as the average cost of fuel flittered above $1.31 per litre and topped out at more than $1.50 in some extreme cases.

Prices continued an upward climb in most areas of the country, with the Atlantic provinces and Quebec being hit the hardest and Alberta avoiding the worst of the storm, according to

"It happens every year at this time, this is where we see our highest prices," Dustin Coupal of told CTV Canada AM in a phone interview from Regina.

"It is really an issue of refinery capacity and the amount of refined petroleum out there. And ultimately the switch to summer blends of fuel."

Coupal says people tend to change their behavior in the face of high gas prices, whether they drive less or carpool to work. But he also recommended motorists should shop around for their gas. keeps a running record of prices at various locations across major Canadian and U.S. cities.

Early Friday morning, for example, the lowest listed price in the Toronto area was $1.26 per litre at the Ultramar station at 5367 Aurora Road.

The highest price was at Petro-Canada locations across the region, with listed prices at $1.37 per litre.

The average price in Toronto was $1.36 per litre, above the national average of $1.31 per litre.

Alberta had the lowest listed provincial average of $1.14 per litre, while Newfoundland and Labrador was sitting at an average cost of $1.44 per litre.

In Labrador City, gas prices had bound above $1.50, and some analysts have predicted that other parts of Canada could break that barrier by the summer.

Across the United States, fuel prices are reaching all-time highs. The nationwide average hovered at around $3.90 per gallon.

Some analysts point to the rising price of crude oil and problems in the Arab world as sources fuelling the rise at the pumps, but Coupal says it has as much to do with closing oil refineries and an industry not being able to produce enough petroleum.

"This isn't a story so much about crude oil, and I think that is why you see the disconnect between the retail price and the price of crude oil," he said. "Crude oil has been going down, gas prices have been going up. The reason is there is a really great supply, a glut of crude oil in North America. The problem is the refined petroleum products are not there to support the demand."

Western sanctions imposed on Iran, the world's third-largest oil exporter, are also contributing to market fluctuations. The international community is trying to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program with an oil embargo, which experts say has added about $15 to $17 per barrel to the price of oil.