South Sound and statewide gasoline prices continued to climb today, propelled by rising tension in Libya and throughout the Middle East that has resulted in oil costs rising to more than $100 per barrel.
As oil prices have risen, so, too, has the price of gasoline.
In the Olympia area, the average price for regular unleaded climbed to $3.42 a gallon today, up eight cents since last week and up nearly 60 cents since last year, according to AAA’s daily fuel gauge. Statewide average prices have risen six cents to $3.36 a gallon, up from $3.30 a gallon a week ago, the data show.
“We’re seeing higher costs of crude fueled by uncertainty in the Middle East,” AAA Washington spokeswoman Janet Ray said today, adding that another factor contributing to higher prices is demand for oil spurred by the global recovery from the recession.
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“The concern is that the supply won’t be there when we are demanding it,” Ray said. She didn’t offer a forecast for fuel prices, but history has shown that prices could rise more.
AAA data show that in February 2008 – another time when oil prices rose to about $100 a barrel – statewide prices shot up about 20 cents in 10 days, she said, increasing to $3.38 a gallon. The all-time high for the Olympia area was set in June of the same year – $4.39 a gallon – before prices plunged at the end of the 2008 amid the economic meltdown.
Statewide average prices at the end of 2008 fell to $1.76 a gallon, Ray said.
Chief Economist Arun Raha said higher gasoline prices are a concern for Washington’s economic recovery because the longer they linger, the greater the chance that prices will “affect the recovery adversely.” Higher prices mean consumers will spend more on gasoline and less on other items, he said.
Some drivers acknowledged today that they were paying more for fuel but said they still weren’t feeling any pain just yet. Rants Group President and Chief Executive Pat Rants, who was getting gasoline for his car at Hulbert Shell downtown, said fuel costs aren’t a big part of his company’s expenses, although he said the business does reimburse employees for fuel costs. Still, higher fuel prices for the business don’t slip by unnoticed, Rants said.
“That line item goes quite a bit over budget when prices are that high,” he said.
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