A rapid rise in gas prices over the past month has many drivers around the Twin Cities feeling held hostage at the pump.

"There's not a whole lot I can do about it," Scott Schneider of Robbinsdale said as he watched the numbers steadily climb on the pump at Sipe's Car Care Center in Robbinsdale. "So I buy the gas and deal with it."

Gasoline prices in the Twin Cities have jumped 19 percent since early January, the largest three-week rise in two years, AAA pricing data show. Regular gasoline was selling at an average price of $3.55 per gallon on Friday, up from around $3 per gallon in early January. Rising global crude oil prices and refinery outages in the Midwest explain the spike.

The rising cost of filling up is frustrating for Tyrone Shields of Minneapolis. "It feels like I'm working just to pay gas prices," he said. "I feel the pinch every time.''

Shields looks for coupons and deals when they're convenient, but he doesn't like to price hunt for stations.

"I go wherever is closest because if I'm going a distance to get a cheaper price, I'm spending more money anyway,'' he said.

Michael Green, spokesman for the AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, said rising crude oil prices and regional refinery outages for maintenance, overhauls and early conversions to summertime blends are the main factors driving up pump prices.

Twin Cities' gasoline prices ranked Friday about in the middle of the U.S. mainland states' prices, with the highest in California at $4.01 per gallon, and the lowest in Wyoming at $3.02 per gallon for regular blends. Minnesota statewide prices were a few cents lower than Twin Cities prices.

"Some people try to blame us for the prices and stuff," said Terry Anderson, who runs TA's Shell Service Station in south Minneapolis. "We have no control over our costs, but we have to have our price accordingly so we can stay in business."

Anderson has noticed some gas stations drop their price below the average, despite a steadily rising wholesale price. Then they are forced to steeply raise their retail price later on. The rising prices haven't affected his business though, Anderson said.

"If we're quite a bit higher than other stations, then it makes a difference. But I haven't seen a drop in gas sales."

Twin Cities prices are nowhere near their recent peak. Last September, prices briefly climbed to around $4 per gallon, a level also hit in May 2011.

The roller-coaster ride of regular gasoline prices has Scott Schneider keeping an eye on the diesel prices instead as he plans to buy a diesel-powered car this spring.

"I just try not to drive a lot, and I don't drive a lot anyway," said Schneider, who says he regularly bikes instead of driving in the summer.

Price of crude is up

Bloomberg News, which tracks refinery outages, reported 20 refineries were down or partly down for various reasons in the Midwest region, which covers 15 states including Minnesota.

Crude oil prices have climbed since mid-December, when Twin Cities drivers for the first time in a year were paying under $3 per gallon for regular gasoline.

Minneapolis resident Roxie Igherighe said the sacrifice at the gas pump is just a reality of life. "You have no choice. So you just bite it and go," said Igherighe.

While she uses grocery store-sponsored fuel cards to rack up savings on gas, she doesn't bother hunting for the cheapest gas.

"My husband does that,'' she said. "It drives me crazy."

Justin Miller is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune. His e-mail address is justin.miller@startribune.com.