March 12, 2014

Price hikes at the pump hurt Merced wallets

Prices at the gas pump are spiking once again.

Prices at the gas pump are spiking once again.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Merced is $3.84, about 28 cents higher than last month’s report, according to the latest AAA monthly statewide survey released Tuesday.

Merced’s gas prices rank lower than the statewide average of $3.91, but higher than the national average of $3.49 per gallon. According to the survey, the national average is at its highest in nearly six months and has increased almost 25 cents in the span of 31 days.

AAA does not forecast the prices dropping anytime soon.

“While retail gas prices are climbing, oil analysts predict higher prices over the next month due to seasonal refinery maintenance and the required switchover to produce summer-blend gasoline,” Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokeswoman, said in a news release.

“These factors coupled with unexpected market-moving events, such as unplanned domestic refinery maintenance or further escalation of geopolitical tensions with Russia, could cause prices to shoot up even higher,” according to the news release.

Residents have had to cut back on mileage or make changes to their travels and lifestyles to save money.

Merced resident Ray Peralta decided to switch his SUV for a smaller car in an effort to reduce his gas expense. “With $20 I wouldn’t even fill up half a tank on my SUV, but in this smaller car $20 goes a long way,” he said.

Merced resident and Merced Community College student Zack Celestre drives a pickup, which fills up with about $70.

“It definitely makes going to school a bit more difficult,” Celestre said. “I don’t get to visit my parents in Palmdale as much anymore because the trip there requires one full tank.”

However, Merced’s average price is 23 cents lower than one year ago. The most expensive gas prices in Northern California are found in Eureka, where a gallon averages $3.98. Ukiah has the cheapest price, at $3.68.

To conserve gasoline, AAA recommends keeping tires at the proper pressure suggested by the vehicle manufacturer, performing routine maintenance and driving smoothly – avoiding sudden stops and starts.

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