Gas prices unlikely to top $4

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

Clay Ingram of AAA Alabama keeps a close eye on gas price trends. He said the recent gas price spike doesn’t surprise him.

“A small part of it is that it’s getting to be that time of year when we see an increase because the demand increases,” Ingram said. “Weather warms, and people start getting out and about again. It continues to rise through the travel season. It’s natural and completely expected.”

The spike due to the time of year is only a small portion of the rise in prices, however.

“The major reason is the situation in Libya. That’s a little frustrating, because nothing has happened in that area to mess with the oil infrastructure at all,” he said. “They only produce about 2 percent of the world’s consumption, so it’s not like it’s a huge amount that we couldn’t live without.”

Ingram said the biggest problem is the potential for some type of disruption. That potential is causing anxiety, and, therefore, prices are rising.

“We saw crude oil futures at $86 a barrel on Friday, but this week, they broke $100 for a very short time. They dropped below $96-$97 a barrel today,” he said.

“It’s higher than it should be,” Ingram said. “To be honest, the amount of increase we’re seeing at the pumps is a little excessive based on the increase we’ve seen for crude oil. Basically, crude is about $10 a barrel more than it was on Friday of last week, but some stations have gone up 30 cents a gallon.”

While gas prices are rising, Ingram said he doesn’t think they’ll rise past $4.

“Will we hit $4 a gallon? If you’d have asked me two months ago, I would have said, possible, but unlikely, but where we are today, it may be a little more possible. I still can’t say that it’s likely,” Ingram said.

Ingram said people have two powerful tools at their disposal: fuel conservation and price shopping.

“Most people do not make an effort to price shop, and that would really make a difference in the cost of fuel if we made our companies compete for gas prices. We’re all in the habit of shopping at our neighborhood store because it’s convenient,” he said. “It sends a message to the gas companies.

“If we send them that message, they’re going to start dropping their prices, and they’ll have to compete in a bidding war and the motorists will benefit,” he added.

AAA maintains a website to monitor trends or increasing and decreasing gas prices across the United States. Visit Fuelgaugereport.com for more information.