It’s getting a lot pricier to fill ‘er up | SierraSun.com

It’s getting a lot pricier to fill ‘er up

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

Gas prices have jumped to more than $3 a gallon at some Truckee gas stations in a week where gas price shattered both state and national records.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Truckee stood at $2.95 on Tuesday. The California average, at $2.77 a gallon, is the highest it has ever been, according to the Automobile Association of America’s daily fuel price poll. That equates to a 67-cent rise in the state’s gas prices over last year.

In Truckee the prices have confounded consumers and heaped added costs on businesses that rely on vehicles.

“They’re very high,” Donner Lake resident Jason Palmer said as he fueled up his truck in town. “It just sucks having to go to Reno to fill up.”

AAA of Northern California spokesman Sean Comey said that the fuel prices, which are up 82 cents in California since the beginning of the year, have risen so drastically that they are truly starting to hurt motorists financially.

“We are concerned about the impact this situation is having on consumers,” Comey said in a release. “When the prices of critical products or services increases this dramatically, it puts a significant strain on the consumer, especially people who are already struggling to pay their bills.”

At the Truckee Police Department, which runs vehicles on the streets of Truckee night and day, Police Chief Scott Berry said the record prices are pulling more money out of his yearly spending plan.

“It definitely has impacted our budget,” Berry said. “We are just keeping an eye on it.”

Tom Alvord mans the phones for Yellow Cab Co., which provides taxi service in the region. He said his cab drivers began tacking on a $1 surcharge for each taxi trip about eight months ago because of the increased fuel costs.

The company, which is licensed in Nevada, has its fares set by the state and can only change them by 10 cents once a year, Alvord said.

But no matter how much motorists shake their heads in disgust at record pump prices, fuel consumption isn’t expected to plummet anytime soon. Spending on other goods and services is likely to suffer first, economists said.

Nationally, gas prices average $2.52 a gallon, according to AAA, which is up 67 cents a gallon compared to this time last year.

Experts point to a wide range of reasons why U.S. consumers and businesses have widely absorbed higher energy prices and maintained a healthy appetite for fuel.

On an inflation-adjusted basis, oil futures would need to exceed $90 a barrel, and retail gasoline prices about $3 a gallon, in order to match the all-time highs set about 25 years ago. And in the past 30 years, the economy has become about twice as efficient energy-wise due to conservation efforts, improvements in technology and the shrinking of the manufacturing sector, among other factors.

Still, Citigroup Smith Barney senior economist Steve Wieting has been mystified by motorists’ continued love affair with SUVs and trucks. Ford, Chrysler and GM all said strong July sales were led by trucks, fueled by sales incentives.

Despite the small-but-growing market for hybrid-electric vehicles, “consumers clearly want large inefficient vehicles,” Wieting said.

None of this detracts from the fact that many Americans, particularly those with fixed or low incomes, are feeling the pinch.

A poll conducted for The Associated Press and AOL News earlier this month found that 64 percent say gas prices will cause money problems for them in the next six months. In April, 51 percent expressed such concerns.

Those most likely to be worried are people with low incomes, the unemployed and minorities. However, the level of concern was rising fastest among women, retirees, married people and those living in the suburbs.

” The Associated Press contributed to this report.