Does it hurt?

You bet it does.

Months ahead of the summer driving season, U.S. gas prices broke the all-time record this week according to two major benchmarks.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which tracks weekly gas prices, reported a new high of $3.225 on Monday for regular. That’s 0.7 cents higher than the price set last May.

And AAA, which tracks prices daily, has reported even more striking records for both regular gasoline and diesel fuel. As of Thursday, U.S. regular averaged $3.267 a gallon, while diesel averaged $3.909.

What does that mean for Army and Air Force Exchange Service customers? You guessed it.

Prices at AAFES stations across Europe will rocket to near-record prices Saturday when the exchange resets its own weekly prices. In Germany, regular gas will hit $3.342 a gallon, according to an AAFES news release. In the United Kingdom, where midgrade gasoline is the lowest grade sold, customers can expect to pay $3.389 a gallon.

AAA’s chief spokesman, Geoff Sundstrom, earlier predicted that fuel prices could hit $4 a gallon this year in the U.S. That means markedly higher prices for AAFES customers overseas, too.

The exchange normally adds 16.7 cents to the Department of Energy average in Germany, and 10.5 cents a gallon to the U.S. price in the UK. This week, however, AAFES added only 11.7 cents in Germany and 5.5 cents in the UK. No explanation for the price break was given in the release.

For Chad Mullins, a former infantryman who works as a manager at the Burger King on Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, rising prices may soon mean alternate transportation.

“If [gas] keeps going up, I’ll be taking the train or looking at mass transit,” Mullins said.

Driving a BMW 318i, and buying between 10 and 11 gallons a week, Mullins has been buying gas in Germany for seven years. “It’s kind of a mix,” he said about the rising prices, “because in a way I see why it’s going up, but in a way, why don’t they go into the extra oil reserves they have in the States?”

In the Netherlands, where fuel prices are so high that AAFES can’t turn a profit by using its standard pricing formula, prices for premium unleaded and diesel are above $4 a gallon.

The Energy Department cites the high cost of crude, which was trading at over a record $110 a barrel Thursday, as the main reason for soaring motor fuel costs. A year ago, a barrel of crude sold at less than $62 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Web site. When the Iraq war started five years ago, a barrel of crude cost $25.

Stars and Stripes reporter Mark St.Clair contributed to this story.

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