Local News

Gas prices chugging higher as holidays near

Posted November 1, 2009 6:18 p.m. EST
Updated November 2, 2009 6:26 a.m. EST

— With the holidays approaching, Americans are paying more for gasoline than they did last year.

“Of course ... they know everybody is going to go on vacation. They need to drive places,” driver Hayley Hammond said Sunday of the rising gas prices.

Gas averaged nationally nearly $2.70 a gallon Sunday, the highest of the year – adding bad news to an already fragile economy.

In North Carolina, gas averaged $2.64 a gallon, and the price varied little, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report. There was no more than a 5-cent difference in prices among metropolitan areas.

In the Triangle, drivers were paying about $2.65 a gallon, up 3 cents from a week earlier and a quarter from a month earlier. Fayetteville drivers had the lowest prices, at $2.61 a gallon.

Graham Outten, of Raleigh, said he's noticed the rise in gas prices when making the trip to Kitty Hawk, one of his favorite recreation spots.

“I think at one point, we got really excited on the beach. It (gas) got down to like $1.98, and we were just like, ‘Yes!’ And then it just went right back up,” Outten said.

Gas prices plunged by 93 cents per gallon between Oct. 30, 2008, and the end of the year. It was a generous break, just in time for the holidays.

Thanks mostly to the weak dollar, that is no longer the case. When a gallon of gas runs from $2.50 to $3, people begin to notice, economy experts say.

“Always look at oil prices and what oil prices are doing,” N.C. State economist Mike Walden said of determining when gas prices will rise.

Walden said higher fuel prices also go hand in hand with an economy trying to rebound.

“An improving world economy means that there is going to be more energy used (and) more driving," he said. "Factories are going to use more fuel and that drives up the price of oil, and that directly leads to higher gas prices."

Prices today are a far cry from the $4 a gallon peak in July 2008. Crude oil, which neared $150 per barrel last year, is trading at about $80 now. Drivers are feeling the pain nonetheless.

“I drove all day long, so it is really hurting my pockets a little bit,” driver Jacob Schulz said in Raleigh.