Gas prices in valley highest in two years

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Prices for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.17 nationwide and $3 in Colorado on Sunday, according to AAA. They ranged from $3 to $3.19 in Grand Junction, according to an informal survey.

For the first time in two years, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has topped the $3 mark around the Grand Valley.

That creep is causing Pete Tait, owner of Domino’s Pizza, 904 North Ave., to keep a close eye on gas station marquees.

When the price for a gallon of fuel climbed to an average high of $4 per gallon nationwide in the summer of 2008, Tait had to find some way to pass along the costs to consumers. He and other owners and managers in the national pizza chain added a $1.25 delivery charge so they could recoup the higher cost of gas. It was in line with what other pizza delivery services already were doing, Tait said.

“We didn’t originally want to do that,” he said of the charge. “I don’t want my drivers to take a hit. I may have to make the charge $1.50, depending on how high gas goes.”

The $3 mark is one thing. But it’s the edging up of gas prices from there that makes motorists anxious, AAA Colorado spokeswoman Wave Dreher said.

“Now that we’ve reached $3 a gallon, $4 a gallon is what’s in everybody’s mind,” she said.

Dreher said she heard from analysts late in 2010 that the $4 per gallon mark was predicted for late this year or early 2012. However, she said, an analyst she recently spoke to backed off from those forecasts.

People also are curious about whether increasing gas prices this early in the year means prices will continue to spike during the spring and summer months at a time when prices usually tend to rise, Dreher said.

“I always joke that if I knew what gas prices were going to be, I wouldn’t be working here,” she said. “(Gas prices) go up a lot easier than they got down.”

Despite soft demand and ample supplies, gas prices have climbed steadily since November, when the average price for a gallon of gas nationwide was $2.80. The average price for a gallon of gas was $2.60 last year at this time, according to AAA.

Unrest in Egypt during the past few weeks affected oil distribution through the nearby Suez Canal and caused the price of oil to surge to its highest amount in more than two years. Gas prices also are at their highest rate in the U.S. for the past 28 months.

Fuel prices in Colorado are on the low end compared with other states. Finding a gallon of gas listed in the high $2 range was difficult Sunday in Grand Junction. Most gas prices hovered at $3 a gallon with prices as high at $3.19 a gallon. As of Sunday, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $3.17. In Colorado, that average price hovered just at $3 a gallon. Hawaii reported $3.75 a gallon, the nation’s most expensive. Wyoming had the least expensive average price for a gallon of gas, $2.95.

“I guess this is a good time to get into good conservation habits, get your air filters clean, not having weight in the car,” Dreher said. “One thing the consumer can do is to get into those good habits again. We can’t control demand for oil in China, but there are things we can do here to help.”


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