New year shuttles in higher gas prices

Motorists were greeted Monday by $2 gas at this Chevron station on Soquel at State Park drives in Aptos.

Motorists were greeted Monday by $2 gas at this Chevron station on Soquel at State Park drives in Aptos.

Two-dollar-a-gallon gasoline has returned to Santa Cruz County . Just when I had gotten used to getting change back after trying to squeeze $20 worth of regular unleaded into my 2004 Chevy Aveo, I, once again, have to completely part ways with my Andrew Jackson and a George Washington or two. What happened to analyst predictions late last year that gas would drop down to 99 cents per gallon? I was looking forward to the concept that two five spots would top me off, something that hasn’t happened for economical car drivers for about a decade. “Traditionally,” said Matt Skryja, AAA spokesman, “gas prices go up around the holidays.” But there are other factors in action worldwide that are upping fuel costs. OPEC, or the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, promises to cut production of oil, and tensions in Russia and the Middle East are a couple reasons, Skryja said. What’s more, refineries typically cut production this time of year, he said. “Generally, there is a drop in usage among consumers this time of year,” Skryja went on. “So, (refineries) are not going to continue producing the amount of gas they produce in the summer, fall and early winter.” So in simple economics, when demand falls, supply drops and prices go up. OK, but, will we see the predicted 99-cent gas? “The world oil and gas supply is in constant flux,” he explained. “As recent as a week ago, analysts predicted that if oil stayed at $40 a barrel, nationally gas be around $1.50-$1.55. So the question remains, will demand increase or will demand stay on low levels?” AAA’s Web site offers the following tips to help motorists reduce how gas price fluctuations impact their wallet, as well as reduce the wear and tear on their vehicle and the environment: Drivers who own more than one vehicle, especially if one is a gas-guzzler, should use the more energy-conserving vehicle as often as possible. Consolidate trips and errands, and find one location where you can take care of all banking, grocery shopping and other chores. Drive closer to the speed limit and avoid quick starts and hard stops. Maintain your vehicle’s tire pressure, fluid levels, etc. regularly. Don’t haul extra weight. Use the proper fuel grade specified in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Shop for low gasoline prices locally, but don’t waste gas driving to a distant filling station to save a few cents. Street Smarts is written by Ramona Turner and appears Mondays. If you have a transportation question or idea, contact her at streetsmarts@santacruzsentinel.com. Be sure to include a name, city of residence and daytime telephone number.
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