Road Worrier

Road Worrier: $4 gas? Drivers take stoical view

Staff WriterJanuary 17, 2012 

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BERKELEY, CA - APRIL 30: A customer prepares to pump biodiesel into her car at the Biofuel Oasis April 30, 2007 in Berkeley, California. The U.S. Interior Department announced today its plans for significant expansion of the offshore gas and oil development, a move that is concerning environmentalists who would rather see more research and development of alternative fuels like biodiesel. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

JUSTIN SULLIVAN — Getty Images

  • Average price for a gallon of self-service regular in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area:

    Current: $3.428

    Week ago: $3.412

    Month ago: $3.263

    Year ago: $3.054

The worst year ever for gas prices was 2011. Prices have risen by 20 cents a gallon since Christmas. Forecasters figure we'll see $4 gas again this spring, for the first time in four years.

So where's the outrage?

Drivers were shocked in 2005 when the price of regular spurted above $2 and kept climbing. By 2012, they have learned to shrug.

"It's tough, but you gotta do what you gotta do," Michael Curtis, 28, of Raleigh said Monday. He was fueling his Ford Explorer at a Crown station on Six Forks Road for $3.439 a gallon, a penny above the average Triangle price.

"I look for alternate ways to get around. If I can walk, I walk. I bike if it's close enough," Curtis said. "If I gotta drive, I gotta drive."

Tom Kloza, an analyst who blogs for the Oil Price Information Service at speaking ofoil.com , says Americans paid a record average $3.51 per gallon in 2011. He expects more increases in 2012, with prices likely to reach $4 by May.

Chad Robbins of Raleigh says drivers have had to make big adjustments in the past few years.

Since gas prices passed the $2 per gallon mark and moved quickly into the $3 range, Robbins said, "I think people have just gotten used to gas staying around that cost. I know I factor it into my budget, and I drive a lot."

The latest economic chills from Europe were not enough Monday to keep crude oil prices from rising above $99 a barrel. Economists attributed the price increase to worries about the steady flow of oil supplies, citing tensions in Iran and unrest in Nigeria.

This being an election year, some voters also point fingers at political leaders. John E. Lane of Charlotte blames "Obama and the Corruptacrats" for rising fuel prices.

"No drilling for our own oil; no pipeline to help with Canadian oil and no new refineries - what do you expect?" Lane said by email.

State fuel tax pinches

Here in North Carolina, drivers are noticing the effect of higher gas taxes. The state tacked an extra 3.9 cents onto each gallon Jan. 1. Republicans who control the state legislature opted in November not to block the increase.

Our new gas tax rate of 38.9 cents per gallon is one of the highest in the country. It's a record high - or, when adjusted for inflation, merely the most we've paid in gas taxes since 1974.

Curtis wonders whether those higher taxes will be used to fix rough pavement on Raleigh streets and state highways.

"I question if they're actually using the money for the roads," he said. "I never see any repair work on the roads, and if they do repair work it's very shoddy."

Robbins, 41, notices that gas is cheaper in neighboring states, where the fuel taxes are lower.

"You can drive across the border to Virginia and get gas 20 cents cheaper," Robbins said. "I feel that we pay too much. Way too much."

Make contact: 919-829-4527 or bruce.siceloff@newsobserver.com. On the Web at twitter.com/Road_Worrier/ and blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown/. Please include address and daytime phone.

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