News

How about these darn gas prices?

By Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

On Thursday, gasoline reached the highest price per gallon seen in U.S. history.

Washington state and Puget Sound area residents pay among the highest prices nationally for gasoline, and though Federal Way motorists have an overall feeling of dissatisfaction toward the cost of gas, few interviewed Thursday have changed their driving patterns or lifestyles as a result.

The national unleaded gas price average reached an all-time high Thursday at $3.55 per gallon, according to www.fuelgaugereport.com, a AAA-managed Web site. In the Tacoma area, gas prices averaged $3.67 per gallon of unleaded gas, according to the same site.

“Today set a new record for us,” AAA Washington spokeswoman Jennifer Cook said.

AAA uses credit card transactions at approximately 85,000 service stations nationwide to track gasoline prices. The organization has followed trends in crude oil and gasoline costs since 1979, Cook said.

Several variables factor into the price of gas in the United States, but right now the cost of crude oil — $118 per barrel on April 22 — is the biggest element determining the price of gas, she said.

Crude oil prices are driven by trade in the commodities market. Because the economy is flailing, trade is being conducted in that market, Cook said. Some drivers across the nation are changing their driving patterns and attempting to conserve gasoline, so one would think supply and demand would determine the price of gas, Cook said.

But that is not the case.

“If you look at the supply and demand aspect of things, our prices should be lower,” she said.

Typically, gas prices rise in March and peak around Memorial Day, Cook said. But at the rate of increase seen today, consumers could be paying $4 per gallon before they see a break, she said.

“There is a possibility we will hit $4 this year,” Cook said.

In Federal Way on Thursday, gas prices ranged from $3.49 per gallon for unleaded gas at Arco stations to a high of $3.74 at a 76 station on Pacific Highway South.

Federal Way resident Debi Marie has noticed her trips to the gas station are getting more expensive.

“It’s costing me $50 instead of $30 to fill up,” she said.

Kate Stanford of Orting bought her SUV in 2005 for its lightweight build, which increases her gas mileage, she said. Stanford, a real estate agent, maps her routes and watches her driving patterns, she said.

Gas prices “are arbitrarily too high,” Stanford said while filling her gas tank in Federal Way.

Unlike Stanford, Seattle resident Dan Mathis and Vancouver resident Chris Lee do not worry much about gas prices and have not changed their driving patterns. Both men work for companies that pay their gas mileage.

“It is what it is,” Lee said. “It’s a ridiculous price, but what do you do about it?”

Mathis blames the high cost of gas on the decreasing value of the U.S. dollar. He said the nation should invest in more oil refineries.

The West Coast’s gas prices are the highest in the country, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii, Cook said. This is partially because a small number of oil refineries are located here and environmental regulations on the West Coast demand a clean process for refining fuel, she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Save money

Tips to save on gas:

• Check tire inflation regularly. Fuel efficiency decreases 2 percent per pound tire inflation is low.

•?Lighten the amount of weight loaded into a vehicle.

• Keep vehicles well maintained.

• Drive when less traffic is present on the roadways.

• Fuel up when the air and vehicle are cool. Gasoline begins to evaporate quicker as the weather gets hotter.

All tips provided by AAA Washington spokeswoman Jennifer Cook.

Check it out:

• Compared to a month ago, the price for unleaded gas has jumped approximately 30 cents per gallon.

• One year ago, the average national price for unleaded gas per gallon was $2.86.

• A low of $3.38 per gallon of unleaded gas can be found in Wyoming.

• A high of $3.76 per gallon of unleaded gas can be found in Hawaii.

All information gathered April 24 from www.fuelgaugereport.com.

Tips to save on gas:

• Check tire inflation regularly. Fuel efficiency decreases 2 percent per pound tire inflation is low.

•?Lighten the amount of weight loaded into a vehicle.

• Keep vehicles well maintained.

• Drive when less traffic is present on the roadways.

• Fuel up when the air and vehicle are cool. Gasoline begins to evaporate quicker as the weather gets hotter.

All tips provided by AAA Washington spokeswoman Jennifer Cook.

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