Rising fuel prices drain wallets

Lisa Moore

It’s obvious gas prices are on the rise.

With gas prices approaching $3, changing driving habits and routine maintenance may decrease the number of trips to the pump.

“Traditionally, gas prices are higher this time of year,” said Bevi Norris, AAA East Central director of communications. “Refineries are closing down for maintenance, changing from their spring to summer grades. Summer grades burn cleaner.”

This year prices are higher than last year. Hurricane Katrina and world demand are a few reasons, Norris said.

“This year gas prices are extremely high – 80 cents higher than last year,” she said. “Some oil refineries are still closed because of Hurricane Katrina. World demand is higher. China is using more than they used to use.”

With gas prices jumping 80 cents in 12 months, there is an uncertainty of future prices at the pump, she said. Keeping a mental note of tips on how to save fuel may be beneficial in the long run.

“It is important a person read their owner’s manual. For example, using the grade of gas required for their vehicle,” she said. “People think the higher grades are the best type. It specifies in the owner’s manual the grade of gas required.”

Keeping tires inflated and changing the air filter periodically are also important factors to consider.

“Routine maintenance is important,” Norris said. “Under-inflated tires can decrease fuel efficiency by about 6 percent. Clogged air filters decrease fuel efficiency by 10 percent.”

Anticipating the summer season, there is a tip for travelers that may be worth remembering, Norris said.

“This time of year a lot of people are traveling, hauling a lot of luggage,” she said. “Lighten the load. A heavier vehicle burns more gas.”

To find cheap gas prices visit the AAA’s Web site at www.AAA.com, and click on the fuel finder tool.

Contact news correspondent Lisa Moore at [email protected].