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Gasoline prices are surging again with summer on the horizon, pushing or even passing $3 a gallon in some places.
Drivers arent expected to ease off on their mileage, sending demand higher than last year, but they are still grumbling.
The Energy Department says the price of regular gasoline should average $2.62 a gallon, 25 cents more than last summer, during the April-September driving period. But prices around the country already are above that.
In Rome, unleaded gas averaged closer to $2.70 per gallon, which Kirby Blalock said he felt hitting his wallet Tuesday evening. Its pretty tough, said the Georgetown, Ky., native who was in Rome on business. He stopped at the Kangaroo Express, 910 N. Broad St., paying $2.75 per gallon to fill up his GMC Yukon. I think what the oil companies are doing is pretty smart. After Hurricane Katrina hit, it went all the way to $2.95 on average, then it drops to $2.38 and were happy again. ... People forget that it wasnt too long ago that gas was $1.48, because were just happy its not $2.95 again.
Will gas prices ever dip back to the $1.50 range? Why would it? Gas companies are making record profits, was Blalocks opinion.
Not everyone in the gas business is making money hand over fist. Bob Abbott, owner of The Walker Mountain Citgo on Cave Spring Road, said he must sell a number of items to make a profit. What were making off gas may be enough to cover the electricity for this place and gas drive-offs, he said. Its a very competitive market. Youve got to have something else you can offer in order to make a profit.
Between Tuesday morning and afternoon, Abbotts gas price rose from $2.69 to $2.74 per gallon, and he doesnt expect things to slow down until the driving season is over.
It could go up or down like the stock market all the way through August. The political situation in Iran and Venezuela and the normal drive time for summer vacations will keep it up, he said. The demand is up, and demand is business. A lot of people forget that.
Guy Caruso, head of the Energy Departments statistical agency, said prices at the pump, which averaged $2.68 a gallon last week nationwide, are likely to increase 10 to 15 cents a gallon in the coming weeks, peak in May and drop off in late summer. He said the national average can mask local price spikes.
We assume normal weather, added Caruso, head of the Energy Information Administration. If a hurricane or a refinery outage causes supply problems, or if crude oil takes a major jump, prices will be higher yet.
Crude oil climbed above $69 a barrel Tuesday to the highest level this year before easing back somewhat. Wholesale gasoline for delivery in May was a shade more than $2 a gallon, 29 percent higher than a year ago.
But Caruso said motorists are not expected to cut back on their summer driving a view mirrored by AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, which also predicts a busy summer travel season. In fact, motorists are expected to use 1.5 percent more gasoline than last summer.
AT THE PUMP
The following is list of sample prices in the area per gallon for regular unleaded gas Tuesday night:
Texaco Food Mart, 507 Turner McCall Blvd.: $2.75
Cowboys Foodmart, 1501 Martha Berry Blvd.: $2.75
The Walker Mountain Citgo, 2342 Cave Spring Road: $2.74
Favorite Market, 7130 New Calhoun Highway: $2.69
Kroger, 1476 Turner McCall Blvd.: $2.68
Kmart, 102 Hicks Drive: $2.68