Residents, Businesses Keep Wary Eye on Rising Gas Prices
Carl Smith says he is determined to keep prices down, even as gasoline prices continue to rise.
The owner of the Lunch Box that Rocks in Southern Pines said Tuesday that he and other small business owners are feeling the strain of increasing gas prices in the form of higher food prices and vendor delivery charges.
On Feb. 3, the average cost of a gallon of regular gas in North Carolina was $3.17, according to the website northcarolinaprices.com. On Tuesday, prices had jumped to an average of $3.38.
"The cost comes across the board," he said. "I'm not extending it down to my customers. I will eat it. I'll make it up somewhere else.
"If I have to cut the lights off an hour earlier to make it up, I will."
Smith said it doesn't make sense to him to vary his prices to coincide with fluctuating gas prices.
"We are all optimistic that prices will come down," he said.
A spokesperson for AAA Carolinas isn't as optimistic as Smith that gas prices will come down anytime soon.
"I think it's going to get worse before it gets better," said Tom Crosby, of AAA Carolinas.
Moore County's gas prices are in line with the averages across the United States, according to AAA's daily fuel report.
Gas prices usually rise slightly in early spring as supplies are cut back in preparation for the switch over to the more expensive summer blend. That change coupled with the ongoing instability and political unrest in the Middle East is a "double whammy" for gas prices, according to Crosby.
Since January, the price has jumped by an average of 35 cents a gallon. Gas prices on average are about 70 cents higher than they were a year ago, according to the information on northcarolinagasprices.com.
Crosby said it is anybody's guess how high prices may go.
"Nobody really knows," he said. "If the unrest in the Middle East spreads to, say, Saudi Arabia or other countries, and and oil supplies are limited, that could skyrocket prices."
As prices have surged over the past few days, consumers have struggled with the decision to fill up.
"I can't believe it," said Gee Hildebrand of Southern Pines. "It's just horrible."
On Tuesday Hildebrand was filling her car up at the Mac's Food Store on Morganton Road. The cost of a regular gallon of gas there on Tuesday was $3.38.
Hildebrand said it cost her $54 to fill up. That is about $16 more than normal, she said.
In an effort to conserve gas and increase her car's fuel efficiency, Hildebrand said she has been coasting more. The strategy has netted her just more than a mile per gallon more, she said.
Crosby said there are a few things that drivers can do to conserve gas and save money.
He suggests drivers maintain a speed as close to the posted limits as possible, espcially on the highways. Speeds above 65 mph, he said, can decrease gas mileage. Maintaining proper tire pressure and keeping your vehicle's air filter clean can help boost gas mileage.
He also suggests consolidating trips, which is something Hildebrand nd others say they are doing.
"I try to make less trips to town and do all my errands in one day," said Barbara Dreisbach, of Southern Pines.
Dreisbach said she has driven across the country about 35 times in her life. She and her husband plan to make another cross-country trip this summer to visit family.
She said they will likely try to recoup some of the cost of the higher gas by staying in cheaper hotels, but eliminating the annual trip isn't in their plans.
Hildebrand, too, said the higher prices won't dissuade her from making a family trip North this summer.
"We've conserved all along to make this trip and it (higher price of gas) is not going to stop us from going," she said.-
According to the AAA's daily fuel gauge on its website, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.375.
Nationally, the highest price per gallon is in California and other Western states. Some areas of California are already reporting prices near $4 per gallon.
Gas prices topped $4 per gallon in the summer of 2008, hitting a national high of $4.11 in mid-July.
"It's kind of scary," Dreisbach said of the thought of paying $4 a gallon. "I can remember when we could drive all night on $1 worth of gas."
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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