Sy Ward fills up her car in Lee County Tuesday afternoon. Gasoline prices have steadily increased during the past few weeks, causing heated debates in the political forum.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Residents of Southwest Georgia have been relieved to see gas prices fall from nearly $4 a gallon a few weeks ago to just under $3 Monday night and Tuesday morning.
But around midday Tuesday, prices shot up 10 cents or more per gallon at many locations, prompting one woman who was visiting Albany Tuesday to wonder about the legality. "It's gone up 10 cents since I rode by here this morning," she said, looking at the price sign. "I don't think they can do that."
As she inquired inside, a clerk was receiving notice to raise the rate a little more.
AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report showed the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Albany on Tuesday morning was $3.015, down nearly a penny from the day before and about 13.5 cents cheaper than last week. Some East Albany stations were still at $2.969 and $2.979 at mid afternoon Tuesday.
The sudden jump came as the long Fourth of July holiday period that continues through Sunday launched. AAA Travel expects 42.3 million people to travel 50 or more miles this holiday period, with nearly a million motorists in Georgia alone. The national travel would be at the highest point for the holiday period since before the recession officially hit in December 2007.
On Sunday, officials with AAA said the sub-$3 gas prices likely would not hold long with the Sunday implementation of European sanctions against oil-producer Iran and speculation that European officials would reach a deal to save the euro currency, the latter sparking optimism that economic growth in Europe will increase, which would also increase fuel consumption.
Oil prices increased last week to settle Friday at $84.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- $5.20 more than the previous week. When markets closed early Tuesday for the Indpendence Day holiday, benchmark U.S. crude added $3.91, or 4.7 percent, to end at $87.66 per barrel in New York. That's the highest price since May 30.
The increase caught motorists' notice, but they also noted that the 10-15 cent increase was easier to bear than when prices were touching on $4 a while back.
"I stopped by for the lawnmower and saw on the sign how it had gone up," Jerry Davis said. "I decided I'd better fill the car."
Davis and his wife are planning a short vacation of 200-300 miles, he said, and would have looked "a little harder" at the trip if gas had stayed near the $4 mark.
"Usually, we'll pull the camper up to the lake and spend two or three days, but a trip like that, no sir, not if it's up like that," he said.
Davis said that news reports stated Iran had been testing long-range missiles Tuesday and that he believed that may have affected gas prices.
"They're not able to export any of their oil as of yesterday," Davis said, "I'm sure that takes center stage on the world market."
While the United States does not export oil from Iran, other nations do. With their Iranian source interrupted, they will compete in the markets with the United States.
Serigius Figura thinks there's "no real reason" for the price fluctuations, except perhaps the fact that it's an election year.
"People just want to make their pockets fatter," Figura said. "It doesn't really affect me. Either you pay for it or you don't."
James Hall, with Central Plumbing and Heating, said higher gas prices affected his own driving habits and those of his company, which has adopted a more conservative "parking" policy for service trucks.
"You figure those big work trucks hold between 25 and 35 gallons apiece. They don't get any mileage to speak of, so when you're filling up three or four days a week it gets kind of astronomical," he said.
Hall, who had previously lived in north Lee County, said the recent higher gas prices ultimately forced him to move closer to his work.
"It was killing me," Hall said. "It was almost to the point where I was paying to come to work."
Hall said he has no opinion on reasons for either the rise or recent upward bump in gas prices, except for the election coming up. He said he probably would consider driving some places he wouldn't have gone before -- if gas prices stay reasonably low.
Queen Carter was regretful she'd missed the lowest prices, saying she couldn't afford to fill her tank. She said when gas was close to $4, it "affected me a lot because that money I was spending on my gas I could have put on my medicine." She is planning a trip to California with her sister and is hopeful prices will remain low.
"I wouldn't have made that trip if it was still at four (dollars)," Carter said. "I'm thinking it being an election years has something to do with the prices. I know something is making them go up and down."
Hanna Haire is on a fixed income and doesn't often drive from her house, especially when gas prices are highest.
"We've got to have our vehicles," Haire said. "If it's 10 cents more we'll have to pay it. Of course, I'm an older lady now, too. When I go out ,I try to get done what I need to do. Some people don't consider those who are on fixed incomes or the poor. They're only looking to those who have all they need and more. But the good Lord is looking after all of us. He's always supplied my needs."