Gas prices hitting drivers in their wallets

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Javier Soto

Posted on February 15, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:25 AM

PHOENIX -- The summer travel season is still months off, but gas prices are on the rise and, according to some experts, are expected to be near record levels this year.

According to Monday's gas and diesel fuel update from the Energy Information Administration, U.S. gas prices are up a little more than 7 cents over a week ago, and more than 8 cents over a year ago. At about 12 cents each, the week-over-week and year-over-year differences in the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Arizona, are slightly higher than the national average.

Because Monday is President's Day, a government holiday, the next update will come out Tuesday.

AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report put the national average price for a gallon of regular gas at $3.64. A month ago it was $3.29 and a year ago it was $3.52.

Here in Arizona, the current average is $3.52 per gallon, according to AAA. It's gone up by about 14 cents in the past week, and 31 cents in the past month.

As always, prices vary throughout the Valley. At the Chevron at Seventh Avenue and Bethany Home Road it was $3.65 per gallon. Across the street at Circle K it was $3.47.

AAA attributes the price increase to refinery issues combined with higher prices for crude oil and a positive economic outlook.

Arizona drivers have their own opinions.

"Big oil seems to make a lot of money, regardless," said Jeff Wight, who was filling up Friday morning. "They probably have a lot to do with it. I think there's price gouging."

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

According to a price breakdown the Energy Information Administration put out in December, there are four main components to gas prices: 68 percent is crude oil, 8 percent is refining, 11 percent is distribution and marketing and 13 percent is taxes.

While there's nothing you can do about the prices, AAA has several tips to help you conserve gas.

  • Accelerate gradually. Avoid jackrabbit starts.
  • Anticipate your stops. When approaching a red light, let your foot off the gas as early as possible.
  • In summer, drive during cooler parts of the day. Cooler, denser air can boost power and mileage.
  • Avoid long warm-ups in the morning. They’re unnecessary and waste fuel.
  • Use air conditioning. Today’s air conditioners create less drag on the engine than driving with the windows open.
  • Maintain recommended tire pressure. Low pressure reduces fuel economy and can damage tires.
  • Keep the air filter clean. Clogged filters reduce fuel economy and increase exhaust emissions.
  • Drive the speed limit.

AAA says you can save a gallon of gas by cutting 22 miles of driving from your week and suggests 10 ways for you to do it.

  • Carpool or use public transit.
  • Slow down. If you travel at 60 mph instead of 70 mph on your 20-mile highway commute, you would save about 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.
  • Combine errands. If possible, park in a central spot and walk from place to place.
  • Shop online and use online services for banking and paying bills.
  • Choose a smaller, fuel efficient car for longer trips.
  • Hike or bike. You’ll burn less gas and more calories.
  • Work from home, if possible.
  • Replace “dinner and a movie” dates with dinner parties. You’ll save the mileage to restaurants and theaters.
  • Share school rides by carpooling with neighbors.
  • Don’t use your trunk for storage. The heavier your car, the more fuel it uses.

To find the best gas prices in your area and throughout the state, check out azfamily.com's gas tracker map.

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