High gas prices not detering holiday travel | TahoeDailyTribune.com

High gas prices not detering holiday travel

With a record 38.9 million travelers planning to trek at least 100 miles from home this long holiday weekend, Americans going over the hill and through the woods seem undeterred by months of gas pains at the pump.

Four out of five people – 31.6 million travelers – will journey by car, the American Automobile Association reported.

The 4 percent increase in travel plans dismisses an average 28-cent hike in the cost of gasoline throughout the United States.

The price of a gallon of self-serve unleaded fuel is currently $1.54 – two cents lower than a month ago but still much higher than a year ago.

At that time, California averaged $1.37, AAA stated. Currently, the Golden State comes in with some of the highest gas prices with an average of $1.81. San Francisco takes the notorious distinction of having the highest prices in the state at $2.01, while Sacramento teeters around $2 a gallon.

Up U.S. Highway 50, the Lake Tahoe Basin posts one of the highest in the state with an average $2.03 for self-serve unleaded, with many station prices on South Shore fluctuating between $1.87 to $1.99 a gallon. A year ago, the average was $1. 56.

In Carson City, the average price of unleaded fuel runs $1.84, AAA added. The frugal motorist in town can find the fuel for $1.59 a gallon at Costco.

In Los Angeles, motorists have made a sport out of shopping for the lowest gas prices, giving new meaning to shop till they drop.

“They’ve become quite good at it,” California State Automobile Association spokesman Justin O’Brien said Wednesday from his San Francisco office. And station operators are competing for their business, he added.

As tradition goes, motorists have awaited more significant drops in prices since Labor Day weekend, when the lower post-summer demand for gasoline usually kicks in as families reduce their vacations. Call it the shoulder season of traveling that may end this weekend.

“We’ve been on a seasonal cycle with Labor Day weekend as a normal time for gas prices to inch downward,” O’Brien said of the law of supply and demand.

But – and it’s a big one – the price of fuel has taken American consumers on a topsy-turvy ride, with refinery fires, the demand for fuel and gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles remaining consistent. The only concession to the United States’ insatiable demand appears to be that the country’s European counterparts have routinely paid twice as much.

“It could be, if you called me on Thanksgiving day, (a gas station operator) could be taking advantage of (the demand),” O’Brien said. “What people forget is that independent operators are in business to make money.”

Analysts say, the strong demand for home heating oil is likely to keep the cost of crude oil high, thus reducing the possibility that gas prices could sink lower. Crude oil prices have shot to their highest level in a decade, exceeding $30 a barrel.

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