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Fuel prices heading back up

By: Andrew DiLuccia, Journal Motoring Editor
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The joy of seeing prices at the fuel pump drop every time you purchase a tank of gas are gone — at least for now.

According to AAA Northern California, the five-month downward spiral of gas prices has leveled off, and consumers have seen an increase for the first time since July. However, with California’s average hovering at $2.06 a gallon for regular unleaded as of Monday, prices are still well below the soaring number of last summer that reached almost $5 a gallon.

“I’m comfortable with it (the prices) right now,” said Chris Stephens of Auburn, who was fueling up his Dodge Durango Monday morning at a Flyers gas station on Bowman road. “It’s going to suck if it goes up any more — at least it’s not $5 a gallon.”

This week, prices in the Auburn region range from $1.98 per gallon to as much as $2.21, according to AAA’s Gas Finder Web page at www.aaa.com. Prices in the foothills and the state are still well above the $1.84 national average for regular unleaded reported on Monday.

Alaska, Hawaii, California and the state of Washington are the only states that are above $2 a gallon for regular unleaded fuel.

Some see the current gas prices as a direct result of the outside forces dictating prices, and AAA reports some analysts speculate the Middle East and the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine could continue to drive up the price.

“As far as the cause for it to go up or down, I just think it’s OPEC,” said John Jones of Auburn, who was filling up to head to the Bay Area on Monday.

Even though analysts agree that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) can dictate prices by further restricting the world oil supply, AAA believes prices may start to decline in the near future.

“Demand for gasoline is at its lowest point of the year,” Matt Skryja, AAA Northern California spokesperson, said in a statement. “Right now, even with the uncertainty in the supply chain internationally, it seems the tough economy and decreased demand may soon help reverse the recent upward trend in prices.”

As fuel prices continue to stay below the high prices of last summer, consumers are still cautious of another meteoric rise in gas costs, and look to plan for more fuel conservation — low fuel prices or not.

“It’s nice to see it (fuel prices) go down again,” Jones said. “But, other than that, you just have to try to drive less and get a better economical car.”

The Journal’s Andrew DiLuccia can be reached at andrewd@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at Auburnjournal.com.