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Auburn fuel prices creeping upward

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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What a difference six months makes. In November and December, the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was less than $2. Now it is hovering on the $3 mark at many stations around Auburn. In fact, gas prices have increased 62 percent since Jan. 1, according to an AAA report released June 9. At Flyer’s on Highway 49 in North Auburn, a fill-up at $2.89 per gallon for cash purchase was looking like a bargain Tuesday. Customer Terri Schneider, visiting from Florida, said she hadn’t actually searched for cheaper gas, but was glad she’d found it. “If I lived here, I’d drive farther (for cheaper gas),” Schneider said as she filled the tank. “I drove across seven states and when I crossed the border into California, the price of gas was the highest.” Helen Hart of Weimar, who was also buying gas at Flyers, said she thinks the rise in prices is Wall Street manipulation. “It’s the same thing that happened before,” Hart said. But the increase hasn’t impacted her driving habits. “I can’t drive less on the job,” she said, explaining that she takes care of people who are in ill health and unable to drive themselves. At the 76 Conoco Phillips station on Highway 49, the price for regular unleaded was $3.01 Tuesday. Across the street at Shell, it was $2.99. For Shell customer Mark Roberts of Auburn, the added cost isn’t slowing him down. “You still have to go where you have to go,” he said. Roberts said the increase is a global issue rooted in growing global consumption. “In China, for example, they’re (constructing) a building a day,” he said. “They’re an economic powerhouse with more than 1 billion people.” The cash price for regular unleaded was $2.95 at Rowdy Randy’s in Downtown Auburn. Customer Margretta Dahms of Greenwood said the increase is definitely having an impact on her life. “I’m a middle-class retired person,” she said. “The oil companies don’t care that the middle class is being squeezed. It’s summer, so people go on vacation because their kids are out of school.” Dahms doesn’t see an end in sight. “It will go as high as the oil companies feel they can make it,” she said. “They’ll squeeze as hard as they can. When they did it before, people stopped driving and prices went down.” According to AAA, the weak economy is no longer as much of a damper on gas prices. The high unemployment rate reinforces the belief of many investors that the economy has not created sufficient demand to justify the higher prices. Yet there are occasional indicators showing the economy is starting to come back, which is driving investment money into crude oil and raising the price of gas, according to Matt Skryja, spokesman for AAA of Northern California. “Many people have described this latest price increase as an oil bubble,” Skryja said in a press release. “We know with all bubbles, at some time they pop.” However, prices likely will continue to rise for at least the next couple of weeks. “Gauging a particular price is like looking into a crystal ball,” Skryja said Tuesday. “But AAA analysts are projecting that as long as market influences and the economy remain the same, prices could reach $3 nationwide and $3.25 in California (by late June or early July).” That could be the summer peak. Still the price is moderate compared to last year at this time. When it was $4.50 to $4.60 a gallon, he said. Typically prices rise in late spring and early summer, in part because of a cost adjustment from cold-weather fuel to a warm-weather blend of gas that is more expensive, he said. Travel, another factor in prices, remains down. Memorial Day travel is a benchmark for what’s coming, according to AAA analysts. “What we saw is that the economy is still a big factor and although travel is down, people still are traveling, but it is by car and short trips. If they’re going to be hitting the road, they’re likely going on a short trip and staying with friends or family.” The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.