Valdosta Daily Times

March 14, 2008

Pain at the pump

Gas prices show no sign of abating

By Kelli Hernandez

VALDOSTA — Consumers across the country are fuming over rising gas prices, which do not seem to be going down any time soon.

For each penny increase in the cost of gas, U.S. consumers pay an extra billion dollars a year, according to Dean Baker, assistant director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research as quoted in a CNNMoney.com article Tuesday.

Except for a few months, inflation-adjusted retail gasoline prices didn’t cross the $2 per gallon mark anytime in the 18 years between 1986 and 2004.

To many, it may seem as though the $2 mark is a thing of long-ago history; however, locally the average price of a gallon of gas in Valdosta was $2.40 in March of last year. Now, the average is $3.25, according to the American Automobile Association. Even one month ago the average city-wide was $2.92.

On paper, these are merely dollars and cents, but to local citizens these numbers mean large impacts in monthly costs of living.

For a commuter traveling 75 miles round-trip to work in the city of Valdosta, every 25 cent

increase in the price of gas means another $16 per month. These commuters are paying nearly $50 more out of pocket just for gasoline to travel to and from work this month than they were just one year ago.

Still, the city of Valdosta fares well in the price of a gallon of gas compared to many U.S. cities coming close to the national average of $3.28 for regular unleaded, the highest average ever recorded. One year ago, that number was $2.54.

According to a Forbes.com article published in December 2007, San Francisco ranked No. 1 on the list of the top ten most expensive places to buy gas. The top five are all cities in the state including San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento and L.A. On average, the entire state of California pays $3.62 per gallon of regular unleaded gas.

Other cities across the country that made the top ten list include New York City, Buffalo, Seattle, Miami and Chicago.

The $4 mark continues to be the point of doom many consumers fear is fast-approaching. Though no state is averaging over $4 for unleaded gasoline, 13 states including Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois and Washington have all reached that mark for diesel fuel and many states are knocking on the door for premium unleaded, according to AAA.

With these numbers and the increase from this time in 2007, maybe the $4 mark isn’t far off for the rest of us.

But why are the prices so steep?

Crude oil’s output is largely influenced by the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. As OPEC decreases oil production, the cost per barrel rises. Conversely, if OPEC increases output, the price per barrel goes down.

Due to the rising prices and the need to pinch every penny, The Valdosta Daily Times started a new service on its Web site which updates local gas prices daily and provides a list of the cheapest places in town to purchase gas. The list can be found at www.valdostadailytimes.com.