The short reprieve drivers have felt at the gasoline pumps recently is no more.
Gas prices are expected to start rising again and will climb to one of the highest levels motorists have seen so far this year, said Jessica Brady, spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South.
"Two weeks prior, prices were going down," Brady said. "Retail gas prices already jumped three cents from last week (in Georgia) and we may see them increase up to another five cents this week."
Depending on the metropolitan area, drivers in Georgia could pay up to $3.55 a gallon for regular gasoline.
That is not sitting well with Angel Harris of Brunswick, who says some of her family members drive gas guzzlers.
"The prices keep rising," Harris said. "I try to stay closer to home and not make unnecessary trips. This is going to keep people from traveling."
Jerry Kennedy of Brunswick says this looks like the fourth year in a row he cannot afford to take a vacation. "The prices are hurting everybody," Kennedy said. "People are trying to work to survive, and this is putting a bad burden on them."
Georgia's average price for regular gasoline is $3.47 a gallon. That is 27 cents more compared to one month ago and 76 cents more compared to last year. The national average has increased by three cents from last week, settling at $3.57.
Scott McQuade, executive director of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, says he hopes that soaring gasoline prices is a problem the area will not have to deal with this summer during its busiest tourist season. The greater the increase in fuel costs, the more pressure people feel to potentially choose not to travel, he said.
"We are fairly dependent on the driving market," McQuade said. "I do believe if we ever saw those (extremely high) prices, which I hope we don't, it will have a fairly significant impact on tourism and it will stretch a household's budget. But when you really consider the proximity we are from Atlanta, Savannah, Jacksonville and the Carolinas, it's still an affordable mode of transportation."
He says more remote destinations tend to be impacted harder by fuel price spikes. In the upcoming weeks, as more students make travel plans for spring break, the Golden Isles is likely to remain on people's radar, but it will feel a secondary impact from rising gas prices, McQuade said.
"People tend to spend less in the stores and in the restaurants," he said. "We're still seeing an impact (on tourism) from the economy, in general, so fuel does escalate that and it will impact other areas of spending, because their overall trip will cost more."
One reason gasoline prices jump going into summer is that the driving season increases demand, Brady said. Until then, the oil market will continue to respond to global events.
"There's no trending right now to go off of, so it's hard to predict where things are going," she said. "As long as the unrest remains in the Middle East, we're going to see escalated prices."
The upcoming hike is due to continued unrest in Libya and the Middle East in general, in addition to positive economic reports, Brady said.
Libya produces about 5 percent of the world's oil supply, but it refines light, sweet crude that is universally used and is the purest and easiest oil to refine, she said.
Oil prices were also pushed higher by reports that the national economy grew at a 3.1 annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2010, which was more than expected.
--To find low gasoline prices online, go to www.TheBrunswickNews.com and click the Gas Buddy icon.
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