According to the American Automobile Association’s daily fuel gauge, gas prices across the country have gone up about 15 cents in just one week. Thursday of last week, the average cost for a gallon of gas in Alabama was $3.51. This past Thursday, it was $3.67.
“The key factor is the price of crude oil,” said Gregg Laskoski, a petroleum analyst with Gas Buddy, a website that allows users to compare gas prices by city, state or ZIP code. “On June 23, the cost of a barrel of crude oil was $93. The most recent price I saw was about $107.”
Laskoski said a $10 increase in crude oil prices transfers to about a 25-cent increase for a gallon of gas.
That cost has a lot to do with the investing market, said Clay Ingram, a public relations manager with AAA in Birmingham. In the last year, investors have switched their hot commodity from gold to oil, and the prices are now just beginning to make their way back to drivers filling their tanks, he said.
It’s ended up putting gas prices way ahead of the average from last summer.
“Last year gas prices in Alabama averaged $3.14 a gallon,” Laskoski said. “So that’s a little bit disconcerting.”
Ingram said while the dramatic and quick hike in gas prices boils down to a combination of summer travel supply and demand and crude oil prices, the long-term problem with huge gas price increases is mostly about consumer apathy.
“No one does price shopping,” Ingram said on motorists’ tendency to stop in at the most convenient place to fill up, regardless of cost. “We see huge variances in prices. Within just a few miles, you can see a difference of 25 cents a gallon. That’s a huge red flag.”
Ingram said it wasn’t all that long ago when gas stations typically made more money selling donuts and coffee than they did at the gas pump, but that’s changed over the last decade. Gas stations now charge as much as they can at the pump with the knowledge customers will stop at locations convenient to them.
The loss comes back to the consumer, and not just in gas prices, Ingram said.
“We have to get gas, so we cut back in other places,” Ingram said. “For a lot of people on a fixed income, that means groceries or maybe medicine they need.”
For a lot of Calhoun County residents, it just means getting out of the house a lot less this summer.
“You don’t have much of a choice, you got to get places,” said Terrence Smith, a Saks resident who shells out about $50 to fill the tank on his Chevy Impala. “But some days you just say, ‘man, I’m not going anywhere today.’”
Kim Hill of Anniston said this summer she’s mostly used her car to get to work and back home, sacrificing a lot of usual summer activities because of the cost of gas.
“I’m not really taking the kids to go swimming,” she said. “We like to go for pleasure rides a lot, but we had to cut those out.”
Jhanae Brady, an information officer with the Fort McClellan Army National Guard Training Center, said she has to plan ahead to consolidate trips when she looks at the prices for gas on the main strip of McClellan Boulevard.
“I’m picking up lunch for two people and filling up,” Brady said at the Walmart gas station Thursday afternoon. “A few months ago I came here from Mississippi on $20. I couldn’t make it back today on that.”
If it’s any relief to Alabama motorists, the Yellowhammer State has had it relatively easy, Laskoski said. In Indiana, prices have gone up as much as 25 cents a gallon in the last week. And the worst is still to come.
“We believe it’ll continue to increase incrementally,” Laskoski said. “The price of crude oil hasn’t fully transferred to retail, so that’s going to continue to raise the price.”
Ingram said the cost to refuel a vehicle typically increases during the summer months before settling down in the fall, but there’s still a long way to go before September.
“It’s going to get a lot higher before it gets lower,” Ingram said.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.