Rising North Texas gas prices are now the highest in Texas according to the American Automobile Association.
The current Dallas-Fort Worth average of $3.59 per gallon of unleaded is well above the $3.18 drivers paid just a month ago.
“It does fluctuate on a regular basis and I really don’t understand it,” driver Judy Damon said.
The price was $3.69 at a Quik Trip station near Dallas Love Field.
“You just have to start cutting expenses somewhere,” said driver Maria Saavedra, as she filled up her tank. ”Kind of like eating out or going out, you don’t get to go shopping as much as you would any more.”
SMU Maguire Energy Institute expert, Dr. Bernard Weinstein, said many factors affect local gasoline prices but the biggest is the price of crude oil.
“Oil prices are set on the global market so we’ don’t have a lot of control in the US. Yes, we are a major producer of oil, but prices tend to equalize across the planet,” Weinstein said.
The price of crude oil has jumped to nearly $100 a barrel, the highest since last fall.
“There’s still a risk premium that’s baked into the price of oil. There’s a lot of unrest, a lot of uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa. And while we don’t buy a lot of our oil from that part of the world, none the less, that affects the global price and that affects the price in the United States,” he said.
Pipeline capacity to move crude oil to US refineries is also tight, along with capacity at those refineries.
“That will change, because there are several major expansions under way right now. But, with the US economy improving, with more people buying cars, with more people using gasoline, that’s also helping to push up prices,” Weinstein said.
Gasoline prices can vary widely at different filling stations on the same street.
Along one stretch of Coit Road in Dallas Monday the price was $3.55 at the Shell on Beltline and $3.79 at a Texaco at LBJ Freeway.
Retail prices change overnight as merchants watch wholesale prices they will pay to re-supply a station.
“At the retail level, that merchant is going to price his gasoline at a level he believes he can sell,” said Weinstein.
SMU Tennis coach Carl Neufeld thought about the cost of driving as he filled up the van he uses to transport team members at the at the Quik Trip Monday.
“It get’s bout 10 miles to the gallon, so I’ve had a good chance to calculate that during the years,” he said.
In many cases, Neufeld finds flying has become cheaper than driving.
“When I made some recruiting trips, going to places like Tulsa, it gets to be pretty even just with one person,” he said.
Hard as it is on drivers, Weinstein said the high price of oil has a positive effect on The State of Texas.
“We’ve had this oil boom that’s created tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in new tax revenue, so that’s good for the state.”
Weinstein predicts crude oil prices could rise a bit higher to over $100 a barrel but if prices rise too high and stay high expensive gasoline could also spoil the economic recovery Texas and the rest of the US have recently enjoyed.