Local News

Gas Prices Getting More Pumped Up

Posted May 15, 2007 5:12 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2007 7:17 p.m. EDT

— Gas prices across the state are approaching the $3-a-gallon threshold, but that isn't driving motorists from the pump.

According to AAA, the national average for regular gas is $3.08 a gallon, while the North Carolina average is $2.95 a gallon. In the Triangle, the average is a penny higher than the state price.

A year ago, the average price locally was $2.82 a gallon.

Pump prices are expected to continue rising this summer, when an active hurricane season could disrupt production in the Gulf of Mexico.

"If some of those (storms) go through the gulf, hit refineries there, then we're starting at such a high plateau, around $3 a gallon, we could easily go $3.50, $3.60, $3.75 for some short period of time," said Mike Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University. "I think $4 is probably the next psychological barrier that people will be looking at."

Gas prices have doubled since 2000, but North Carolina still has the 10th-cheapest gas in the country. California tops the nation at an average of $3.47 a gallon.

Still, drivers are digging deep in their pockets and filling up their tanks. Consumption of gas is up from last year, despite the 14-cent-a-gallon increase locally from 2006.

"I don't know how people afford it, especially people who barely make minimum wage," driver Brittany Runion said.

"It's hard to come out of your pocket and pay that much for gas, like $20 for six gallons. That's ridiculous," driver Cordero Slash said.

Despite the rise in gas prices, economists said the cost of other consumer goods has dropped in recent years. Clothing prices are down 10 percent since 2000, while prices for electronics are down 50 percent.

"These (gas) prices have not slowed down consumer spending, have not slowed down appreciably the economy," Walden said.