The pain of $4-a-gallon gas is spreading

This tipping point is already hitting the country's most populated areas. As gas prices surge, some consumers may cut spending in other areas.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 26, 2013 3:41PM

Image: Buying gas (© moodboard/Corbis/Corbis)A tipping point has hit some of the country's most populated areas: the $4 gallon of gas, which is digging into the pocketbooks of consumers in New York, California and Washington, D.C., according to the Automobile Association of America.

While painful for consumers, high gas prices may also spell trouble for the still-recovering economy. At $4 per gallon and higher, almost one-third of consumers say they're forced to make "significant cutbacks" in spending, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.

February's price jump has been unusual, given that drivers typically take to the roads less in winter, leading to lower demand for gas. But refinery shutdowns have resulted in tighter supply, which is driving up prices. 

Unfortunately for consumers, it's likely that more parts of the country will soon feel the $4 pain, despite a break in the rising streak.

That's because fuel prices typically rise in March and April, as weather improves and drivers take to the road again. Peak prices this spring might approach the highs seen in 2011 and 2012, AAA noted in a Feb. 19 blog post

The worst-hit cities are in California, with Santa Barbara residents paying the highest prices in the country: $4.36 for a gallon, according to Other hard-hit towns include Honolulu, where a gallon costs $4.27, and New York City, where drivers pay $4.06. 

The higher costs are taking their toll on consumers, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), which represents the convenience and fuel retailing industry. 

Almost one-quarter of consumers who buy gas are "very pessimistic" about the economy, up from 18% in January, when fuel prices started climbing, according to the NACS Consumer Fuels Survey

"[C]onsumers are feeling the pain from higher gas prices and this is affecting their feelings about the economy in general," said John Eichberger, NACS vice president of government relations, in a statement. "Worse, consumers see no end in sight, with 62% saying that they expect prices to be even higher in the coming weeks."

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Feb 26, 2013 4:38PM
Congress can afford it.  On 175,000 yearly, what is 4 bucks?  It is my belief we need to put Congress in our shoes.  They should not be allowed to set their own salary and benefits.  They should not be allowed campaign contributions from outside their district.  They should only be paid the average annual individual income for their district.  After all, they only work part time and get full time, overpaid, pay.  That is not right.  They should have an opinion poll toward the end of their first year in office to determine their salary for the second year and a similar poll for each year afterwards.  That percentage should be multiplied by their current years salary to calculate the next year's salary.  They should be paid at least minimum wage. This would put them on MERIT pay and would weed out those only there for money and benefits.
Feb 26, 2013 4:28PM
Every time the economy starts to get traction higher gas prices bring it to a stop. The oil companies create false shortages to raise prices.The north Dakota oil  fields are flooding the US market with crude oil yet we are paying more??? So much for supply and demand.
Feb 26, 2013 3:48PM
We need higher energy prices like we need a hole in our heads.  The convoluted energy policies of the last few years are coming back to bite us.  You wanna create a few million jobs pretty quickly?  Drill here, there and everywhere and start doing it now.  More refineries - hell yeah!  More nuclear and coal - hell yeah!  More wind and solar - hell yeah, go for it, just not on the taxpayer dime.

The more dependent we are on other nations, the less secure we are. 
Feb 26, 2013 4:16PM

 This article regarding fuel prices and it's possible effects is reality.  How is it that "consumer confidence" is up?   Everytime this idiotic statistic comes out we seem to be in the middle of some crisis.  Does the State controlled media actually think that if they tell us we are confident  that we will be?  Just wondering...

Feb 26, 2013 4:36PM

Ohhhhhh you gotta love big oil and the politicians. We need to boot the whole lot of them and start fresh

Feb 26, 2013 5:16PM
Before hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, an oil refinery in Jersey had laid off employees because all the storage tanks were full.  Shortage my ..................!  Its pure GREED!
Feb 26, 2013 4:52PM

This is a ploy by the mainstream media constantly stating the price of gas.  Mainstream media is in the pocket of the White House and Democrates.  The lawmakers all have gas cards and we the tax payer, pay for their gas just as we pay for all the traveling flights of the first family.  This is all a scam.

I wish we had a President who would govern instead of campaigning constantly against the GOP.  He is obsessed with this since he was voted in again.

Feb 26, 2013 4:50PM
It's gotta be G. W. Bush's fault right?? LOL!!
Feb 26, 2013 4:54PM
I might have the exact numbers off a little but I am sure I read recently that Exxon gave $250 million in total campaign contributions and pac money to out politicians and received 1.5 BILLION in tax breaks DAMN good return on the $. I wish we the people could afford a good lobbyist! With that being said do you think rich politicians like Pelosi and Boehner give a damn about the middle class?
Feb 26, 2013 5:21PM
here's the reality of it all.  There is not a damn thing that we regular joes can do to stop these miserable petrol corporations from raising their prices.  The higher the gas prices, the more the government makes in tax revenues, the more the oil execs make in their paychecks, the more the media wants to remind us that it still not as high as it once got 20-something years ago so as to makes us feel like we're getting a bargain on this crap.  Why, I ask again, is petrol that is being drilled in the good ol' USA being sold to Americans at world prices?  Let me ask it in a different way, "Why are we getting screwed on our own natural resources?"  What good is "Oil Independence" if we're still paying these ridiculous prices?  I don't have a clue as to how to put the kabash on these bastards from raping us.
Feb 26, 2013 4:49PM

Theoil companies are boasting a 2 billion plus profit per quarter.  My suggestion is hit em where it hurts!  Everyone needs to take a week vacation and sit at home.  If nothing is moving they aren't going to raise the prices!  They'll be cutting them by half!!


Feb 26, 2013 4:45PM
What else is new? It will never return to the good ole days of 50cents a gallon.What a crock!!!
Feb 26, 2013 5:09PM
Thanks Obuttplug!!! You communist POS!!!
Feb 26, 2013 4:49PM
Time to expand the USA's strategic reserves to include domestic price stabilization.

When supplies get low, release reserves.

When supplies are high, buy and hold for later use.
Feb 26, 2013 5:20PM

Got vacation time? Take it and park the car for a week.

Feb 26, 2013 4:54PM
If anyone watches the market you will see that in the a.m. before NY opens, gas prices are down with Europe and Asia trading, but as soon as it hits the US up it goes.  Until there is some regulation on the investments of Hedge Funds and other large investors who are not regulated, gas prices will continue as they have.  The old adage "Rome burns as Nero fiddles" comes to mind.  And why is this not done already, let's just ask in Washington who is investing their retirements?
Feb 26, 2013 5:12PM
Ask Obuttplug, he says it's Bush's fault. The POS media was giving Bush hell when it got to $4.00 a gallon. This little BS piece is all I have seen in the last 5 years. It's been over $3.00 dollars for Obuttplugs entire time in office.
Feb 26, 2013 4:34PM
Feb 26, 2013 5:42PM
lets see, about 15 years ago gas was  around $1.10 a gal .cars were getting about 20 mpg on average. the feds said to the auto makers your cars must get better mileage so the auto makers made cars that got about 23-24 mpg. gas went up to $1.25 per gal. then the feds said you need to get your fleets to average 25-27 mpg. they did and gas went up to $1.90-2.00 per gal. a trend had been established. 30 mpg cars, $2.50-3.00 per gal. now we have autos that deliver  35-40 mpg and gas is now $4.00 per gal. when the brilliant goverment we have says that they need to increase the mpg agian, guess where gas prices will go.  60 mpg cars, $5-7 per gal.  80 mpg, gas at $8-10 per gal. get used to it folks, no matter where the oil comes from, it's going to cost you. our government doesn't give a damn. they are just not smart enough to know what the hell to do.
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