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Gas pump prices springing ahead

Editorial

If you’re looking to do traveling over the next few months, you might want to budget more for filling up your gas tank. We’re still in what passes for spring in Southwest Georgia, but gas pumps definitely have a springy look to them, at least as far as the cost per gallon.

Gas prices have been steadily rising and now exceed the level at which they were at a year ago. Heading into what is traditionally the busy travel season — spring break from school and then the summer driving season that runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, motorists may get some sticker shock at the gas pump.

And that doesn’t take into account a disruption in the fuel production chain from a Gulf Coast hurricane or political unrest in the Middle East oil production areas.

The AAA Auto Club Group says that a gallon of regular retail gas is higher than it was this time in 2012. Contributing factors cited in the AAA report Sunday for hikes in crude oil and gas station prices included the snow storm in the Northeast, worries over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and economic news that indicates consumption will rise.

And the trend is likely to continue, an AAA spokesperson said.

“Motorists can expect gas prices to rise throughout March and into April,” Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman, said. “Although there are a few factors that could cause oil prices to stabilize this week, it’s likely gas prices will increase. So far market trends and price fluctuations at the pump have been similar to 2011 and 2012, leading analysts to believe prices will peak in April before they retreat.”

According to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report for Monday, the national average for regular gas in the United States was $3.73 a gallon, up 17.4 cents from the same day in 2012 and a 42.9 cent jump from January.

In Georgia, the average Monday morning was $3.664, up 36.1 cents from a month ago and 11.7 cents higher than Georgia’s $3.547 average a year ago.

Metro Albany average was better than the state and national averages Monday at $3.624 a gallon, but that’s still a 28.4 cent increase over Jan. 18 and an 8.9 cent increase over a year ago. The most expensive metro area Monday was metro Atlanta’s $3.692, while the cheapest was Augusta-Aiken’s $3.561 average.

There’s little doubt that it’s going to be more expensive to travel this spring. And it will be more expensive to do the driving that has to be done, such as going to work and to the grocery store. We all want to see the economy improve, but the downside is that filling up the car or SUV is going to take a bigger chunk out of the paycheck.

Let’s hope that the “wild cards” — Iran, hurricanes, Middle East tensions and such — don’t make it any more painful than it has to be.