Fuel Prices Going Up; How High is Too High for Drivers

Fuel prices expected to climb again

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Prices are expected to creep closer to $4 per gallon Friday.

    There could be more pain at the pump than normal Friday morning, with fuel prices again expected to inch closer to $4 per gallon.

    Overall, prices in North Texas are about 21 cents higher than they were a month ago and 2 cents higher than last week, according to AAA Texas.  Even still, with the statewide average at $3.59 per gallon, Texas is 17 cents per gallon less than the national average of $3.76.

    That being said, drivers should watch where they fill their tanks. In his report Friday morning, NBC 5's Ben Russell found gas at an Exxon station off Meadowbrook Drive in Fort Worth at $3.89 per gallon for regular unleaded -- a full 13 cents over the national average and 30 cents per gallon over the state average.

    The industry blames the expected spike on the costs incurred by refineries in switching from winter blends to summer blends.  Analysts also say tension with Iran remains a key component in determining global prices of crude oil.

    Impact on Spring Break Travel

    AAA Texas said the average Spring Break traveler will pay about $50 for a 14-gallon fill-up, just $2 more than last year.

    "In the last week the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded increased two cents.  Comparing this week's prices to this same time last year, Texans are paying about 18 cents more per gallon of regular unleaded, or about two dollars more per 14-gallon fill up than they did during Spring Break last year," said AAA Texas/New Mexico Public Affairs Representative Sarah Schimmer.

    Higher gas prices are expected to lead to people bargain-hunting for spring vacations -- which may lead to more driving, more people on the road, etc.

    Different Polls, Different Magic Numbers

    Meanwhile, a Gallup poll released Thursday indicates that, on average,prices would have to hit $5.30 per gallon before most Americans would be forced to make significant cuts to other types of household spending in order to cover their fuel costs.

    A AAA Texas poll indicates that 61 percent of those surveyed said high gasoline prices have already affected their household budgets. It also asked, “At approximately what price per gallon of gas do you think you will start making major changes in how much you drive or how much gasoline you use?” Twenty-nine percent said $4 a gallon was the critical price point, 22 percent said $4.50 or $5 a gallon, and 17 percent said $3.50 a gallon, while 7 percent said they didn’t know"

    “It’s interesting to note that the critical price point has gone up for most people as the gas prices have actually risen to new levels,” said Schimmer. “Last year, 47 percent said that either $3 or $3.50 a gallon would be a crucial price point for them and this year, it was 28 percent. The higher price points of $4, $4.50 and $5 a gallon were cited by 34 percent of those surveyed last year as crucial to changing their driving. This year, 51 percent said one of those prices would be their turning point.”