When a report comes across the TV news that a Maryland car dealer has begun requiring customers to pay a gasoline charge for a test drive, it can’t be good news, especially for people like professional limousine drivers whose very business foundation is based on gasoline.
Just since mid-January, the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has increased more than 13% to $3.75 per gallon. Prices in most areas of California have gone over $5.00 a gallon for regular gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), despite projections of increased production of U.S. crude oil output over the next 2 years, prices for gasoline this year will continue to rise until July when they will level off, and then stay relatively flat until July 2014.
Driving the historically high gas prices are several factors:
- Rising crude oil prices overseas. Two-thirds o the cost of a gallon of gas comes from the price of crude oil and the price grew by 10% in the last two months;
- Cuts in production. Speculation is that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has cut production by approximately 1 million barrels a day over the last several months because of rising oil production elsewhere in the world;
- Several refinery closings. Normal maintenance has already shut down refineries and more closures are expected as companies prepare the process of switching to so-called summer gasoline, which has a different formulation for the warm weather;
- Increased demand. The summer travel season normally has higher prices because of the expense of stepped-up production.
How can you conserve gas and save money when driving?
Some common sense suggestions:
- Slow Down. A 20 mile drive takes 15 minutes at 80 mph and 20 minutes at 60 mph. But the higher speed burns much more gas.
- Don’t Accelerate Sharply or Brake Hard.Avoid increasing or reducing your rate of speed drastically and you’ll cut down on fuel consumption.
- Lighten Your Load. The heavier your vehicle, the more fuel it takes to move it around. Remove unnecessary baggage.
- Perform Regular Maintenance. Don’t skip oil changes or maintenance needs. They keep your vehicle at peak performance and extend the life of your ride.
An interactive map showing the current average price of a gallon of gasoline for each state is available from the CNN.Money website.