By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
John Klingele knows it doesn't do any good to complain when gas prices jump.
"They are what they are," Klingele said after filling up a company car Thursday morning at the Ayerco in West Quincy, Mo. "There's no real option. You can complain it, but it's not going to do you a whole lot of good."
The retail price of gas has jumped 30 cents a gallon to $3.50 in the past week, 8 cents higher than the national average. The culprits: Rising crude oil prices, slowing output at refineries that are undergoing maintenance, and low supplies of gasoline.
These are the kinds of thing that push gasoline prices higher every spring after what is normally a lull in gasoline prices in the late fall and early winter. But the Associated Press reported a heavy schedule of January maintenance at West Coast refineries has led to sharply higher prices there. Meanwhile, low inventories have pushed prices higher on the East Coast.
And rising crude oil prices have pushed prices higher throughout the country.
The price of oil fell near $97 a gallon on Thursday. Gas was trading at $97.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 66 cents. However, oil prices were up more than $5 a gallon in January, the highest monthly increase since August.
Unfortunately, the uptick in prices may just be the beginning. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for gasbuddy.com, expects prices to continue to climb.
"You people in Quincy paying $3.50 a gallon right now are lucky," DeHaan said. "Prices in Michigan have gone from $3.18 on Jan. 15 and they're at $3.75 a gallon today."
He predicted that prices here could climb another 10 to 25 cents per gallon.
"Gas prices can be so quick to change all over the map, but I think what you saw (this week) was the first wave (of price increases)," DeHaan said.
Retail gasoline prices have risen for 14 days straight, according to American Automobile Association. The average price for the month of January was $3.32, the second highest January average ever, although a nickel cheaper than last year's record.
In each of the last two years gasoline prices rose sharply at the beginning of the year because tensions in the Middle East raised fears that oil supplies would be disrupted.
The national average price has risen in nine of the last 10 Februarys. Last year gasoline prices jumped 28 cents, or 8 percent, in February and averaged $3.55 for the month.
Analysts still don't expect prices to follow last year's steep path through March that brought them to a high of $3.94 on April 6. Crude oil supplies are high, oil production is booming and the economy isn't growing very fast.
"I think the markets are reacting to the uncertainty and possible escalation in the Middle East," said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association.
"It hurts your pocketbook, but you make do," Klingele said. "I drive 40 miles back and forth to work each day. There is no real option to just put 10 bucks in. You fill up when it's empty."
There are some programs helping consumers save at the pump. Quincy's Bernice Colgrove paid just $3.07 per gallon Thursday morning for her gas at the Hy-Vee Harrison gas station. She's a member of Hy-Vee's Fuel Saver, which was launched in December. Members get discounts at the pump for buying certain items in the store. Colgrove had accumulated 42 cents per gallon in savings prior to her fill-up.
Colgrove says she mainly travels in Quincy.
"I drive a lot of miles, but the higher price is noticeable," she said.
Consider this as you fill up on your way to a Super Bowl party this weekend: The oil and gas analyst Stephen Schork notes that while gasoline prices may seem high, they haven’t risen nearly as fast as tickets to the big game.
When the first Super Bowl was played 46 years ago, gasoline cost about 32 cents per gallon and Super Bowl tickets cost $10. Now gasoline is $3.42 and a seat in a distant corner of the Superdome costs $2,236 on the ticket-reselling site StubHub.
Put another way, a ticket to the Super Bowl in 1966 was worth about 31 gallons of gasoline then, enough for 2 fill-ups. A ticket to Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans is worth 650 gallons — enough to fill a midsize sedan 43 times.
— The Associated Press