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Gas prices keep rising

Sam Webb is a man with few options.

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Larry Hudson says he used to spend $40 to fill the twin-tanks on his Ford F150. "I don't keep it filled like I used to," he said.

"I wish there was a way around it, but there's not," he said as he filled his truck outside Circle K. "I've got to have it to get to work and to live my life. I just wish it didn't cost so much."

Mr. Webb's voice seemed to echo the sentiments of many who are faced with rising gas prices. According to industry officials, the prices will most likely go up in the coming months.

"We are into holiday traveling mode. From what we see, there will be a spike near Memorial Day and then maybe a moderation, and then comes the Fourth of July and then Labor Day, so it's really hard to tell, but we see still an increase," said Randy Bly, director of community relations for AAA Auto Club South.

Mr. Bly said the increase, nearly 75 cents a gallon from a year ago, is caused by several things.

"On the global issue, China's demand on crude jumped last year as that country seemed to go from bicycle to vehicle. And that surge is expected to increase with China predicted to use more gas than the US. Then there is the conflict in Iraq. Add to that refineries have to mix 16 boutique fuels, to power motors and the problem multiplies," he said.

A recent email-spurred effort to "Stick it up their behinds day" designed to send a message to fuel companies met with little or no success. "While the effort got quite a bit of attention, the end was that at some point, people were going to have to buy fuel," said Mr. Bly.

"We advocate maintaining vehicle and driving habits as two ways to combat the cost to consumer. By maintaining correct tire pressure and making sure the vehicle is maintained can improve both gas mileage and safety," he said. "Also, avoiding jack-rabbit stops and starts and using cruise control can help."

Larry Hudson had some other ideas as he topped off his Ford F-150 Friday in front of Crown on East Hill Street.

"Now, I stay home more than I used to," he laughed. "Seriously, I only make necessary trips and try and combine trips whenever possible. You can find that if you plan things, you don't need to go as much as you think."

Mr. Bly said that the high prices of fuel have not scared the public so much that vacations are being abandoned.

"The economy is improving, and vacation time is here. For a family of four going from Georgia to Florida, the gas expenditure, even with its increase, is the smallest expense compared to lodging, meals and entertainment. We also see people driving SUVs and large vehicles like they were fuel-efficient and they aren't," said Mr. Bly.

Mr. Bly wouldn't make any solid projections on future fuel prices.

"I'd love to say it will go down," he said, "but it will probably continue to rise to $2. By the time fall arrives, prices may be back to around $1.65. But it's simply speculation."

AAA's tips to gas conservation

The AAA offers these tips in an effort to help consumers --

Slow down. The faster a vehicle travels, the more fuel it burns.

Prepare your vehicle for the stress of summer by keeping it maintained for top performance. Gasoline is wasted in a vehicle that is not tuned properly.

Keep fuel and air filters clean and tires properly inflated to improve fuel efficiency.

Use the more fuel-conserving vehicle for driving vacations if you own more than one car.

Lighten the load. Take only what you need and keep luggage inside the vehicle. Luggage strapped on the roof will create wind resistance, which decreases fuel efficiency.

Choose a vacation spot where only minimal driving will be needed after you arrive. Start trips early in the day while traffic is light. Plan meal stops to coincide with likely periods of traffic congestion.

Don't top off your gas tank. In hot weather, fuel expansion can cause overflow.

Use the air conditioner conservatively. An "economy" or "recirculation" setting can reduce the amount of hot outside air that must be chilled. Both settings can reduce the air-conditioning load-and save gas.

Keep your eyes open for lower fuel prices, but don't waste gas driving to a distant location to save a few cents.



Web posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004


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