Five-dollar-a-gallon gas -- already on sale at Southern California pumps -- could become a wallet-busting possibility at Bay State stations by next year, experts said yesterday as fuel prices topped $4.09 earlier than usual.
The increase comes as Gov. Deval Patrick is proposing to tie the price of gas to inflation as part of his $1.9 billion dollar tax hike.
"I would be surprised if we get $5 gasoline this year, but maybe in a year we could, absolutely we could," said Jonathan Haughton, senior economist at Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute.
"We'll get there even faster if Gov. Patrick puts in a gasoline tax (hike). I think we've got to get used to the fact that gasoline is not going to be particularly cheap again," Haughton said.
Drivers across Boston couldn't believe what they were shelling out.
"Oh my God!" Kenny Melo said while paying $4.09 a gallon in Roxbury yesterday. "That's too much. I don't know what I'm going to do. Stay home, stay home as much as possible. Don't go out for nothing."
The average price of gas in Massachusetts has spiked four straight weeks, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Last week's average of $3.66 was the highest since November. A survey released yesterday by AAA of Southern New England found a $3.72 state average this week.
As of last night, eight stations in and around Boston were charging more than $4 a gallon, with several others at $3.99, according to GasBuddy.com.
The spike in gas prices seems to be happening earlier this year, said Fred Rozell, director of retail data at the Oil Price Information Service.
"There's a lot of speculative money going into the futures market, and they are aware that this happens every year," Rozell said. "They're trying to get a jump on it, and that's making the price move early. It's all about: 'Is there going to be enough fuel to meet the summer demand?' And there always is, but they panic that this might be the year that it happens."
Brian Jenkins was also shocked as he pulled into a station in Roxbury selling a gallon of regular gas for $4.09.
"I came here thinking it was going to be the normal, like, $3.80," said Jenkins, a security director from Dorchester. "$4.09 is ridiculous. I'm going to fill it up one time, and hopefully don't have to come back until (prices drop)."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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