By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Perhaps you've noticed: You're paying more for gas than you did a month ago.

As a matter of fact, California gas prices are the highest in the continental states - an average of $2.61 a gallon of regular unleaded, according to AAA. Highest in the nation is Wailuku, on the island of Maui, $3.24 per gallon.

And most drivers in other parts of the country are paying less for fuel.

AAA, which tracks gas prices for consumers, reports that California's statewide average rose 10 cents from a month ago.

That's all in spite of positive indicators that favor consumers. AAA reports that:

?Oil prices are down more than 30 percent from their peak last July.

?Unseasonably warm weather in the Northeast and Europe has dropped demand for home heating oil.

?A relatively mild hurricane season has left gas production plants there undamaged.

?Financial speculation that's boosted global oil prices seems to be on the decline.

West Coast gas prices may show the effects of recent refinery problems in Washington state, AAA officials said.

That state doesn't export andquot;significantandquot; amounts of fuel to California, but ripples of its problems are slapping the shores of the Golden State.

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.23, down 6 cents from last month and 8 cents lower than one year ago.

But the average price of gas in California is now 38 cents per gallon higher than the national average and 17 cents higher than one year ago.

AAA reports the lowest price among Northern California cities it tracks is in Tracy at $2.53 per gallon. The region's average price is $2.62.