Gas prices grew by double digits for the second month in a row in the Intermountain West, with Carbon County and the rest of Utah's average gas price of $1.81 almost reaching the highest ever recorded, AAA Utah reported.
The national price for regular, unleaded, self-serve gasoline is $1.72, an eight-cent increase from last month. The national average price last year was $1.72.
Utah has the eighth highest price in the country. The current average price in Carbon County and the rest of the state is $1.81, an 18-cent increase from last month.
This price is within two cents of Utah's highest recorded price of $1.83 on September 4, 2003. The average price last year was $1.70.
"The biggest reason for the price spike is the high cost of crude oil which, hovers around $37 a barrel and low inventories," said Rolayne Fairclough, AAA Utah spokeswoman. "OPEC ministers plan to cut production by another 1 million barrels per day to 23.5 million barrels by April 1 citing the weak dollar that is cutting their purchasing power by 30 percent."
Secretary Abraham of the Energy Department acknowledged that gas prices are higher than the department anticipated. Reasons he cited were thin inventories and an inability to import the boutique fuels required in the United States to meet environmental requirements.
World demand for oil is increasing faster than expected. China has rapidly increased its demand growing by 580,000 barrels per day.
In January, China consumed a record six million barrels a day making it the second largest oil consumer after the United States. Europe's economic recovery increases their demand and significantly cuts into the gasoline exports previously shipped to the United States.
Of the cities surveyed by AAA, all reported double-digit increases. Moab motorists experienced the smallest increase, eleven cents, for an average price of $1.83. St. George has the highest average price of the cities surveyed. It increased fifteen cents to an average price of $1.86.
Vernal's average price is $1.84, a 19-cent increase from last month. Salt Lake City's average price increased seventeen cents to $1.77. Provo motorists now pay an average of 21 cents more per gallon for an average price of $1.82. Ogden had the highest increase this past month, 22 cents, for an average price of $1.79.
The United States Senate recently passed an amendment to the 2004 budget resolution to sell the 53 million barrels of crude oil that were scheduled for the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
This move would increase the supply of oil in the country. The funds from the sale are to be used to help reduce the deficit and to increase homeland security funding for states.
States in the Intermountain West experienced significant increases in the price of regular, unleaded, self-serve gasoline. Idaho's price increased sixteen cents for an average price of $1.81. Montana was the only state not to have a double digit increase. The price in Montana rose nine cents for an average of $1.69.
Wyoming's motorists pay thirteen cents more for an average price of $1.67. Colorado's price jumped thirteen cents for an average of $1.69. Arizona's motorists pay an average of $1.92, a 22-cent increase from last month. Nevada experienced a 24-cent increase for an average price of $2.06.
California has the highest price in the country. Motorists pay 26 cents more for an average price of $2.16.
"Despite high prices, demand is increasing," Fairclough said . "Most people do not have a great deal of flexibility in how they use their vehicles. They have to go to work, take children to school and run errands. Since gasoline prices are likely to move higher over the long term, gas prices may play an increasing role in car buying decisions."
To achieve the greatest fuel economy, AAA suggests motorists keep their vehicles well-maintained, making sure fluids are clean and full, filters are clean and belts and hoses are not worn. Keeping tires at proper pressure is the best way to save money on gasoline.
If tire pressure is low, fuel economy can be affected by as much as ten percent. Other ways to increase fuel economy are to lighten the load in the vehicle, to consolidate errands and to practice smooth driving by avoiding sudden stops and fast starts.