Prices at some South Florida gas stations are cracking $4 per gallon and likely will keep rising into April. This month is poised to close as the February with the highest gas prices ever, travel club AAA said.
"I don't like it," said motorist Susan Mohr, 54, of Deerfield Beach, as the charity volunteer grouped her errands to try to conserve gas on her rounds. "The price needs to go down."
On Monday, the price of a gallon of regular gas averaged $3.94 in Broward County and $3.96 in Palm Beach County. That's up at least six cents from last week and at least 43 cents from a month ago. It's also at least 13 cents per gallon more expensive than a year ago, AAA said.
Spurring the gains are a mix of reasons, including increased demand in emerging markets such as China and India, as well as cutbacks in gas output from U.S. refineries closed for maintenance, analysts said.
So far, consumers do not seem to be changing consumption habits much, according to both gas station managers and consumers consulted Monday.
"It looks like people are used to it," said Aamir Abbasi, who runs four Shell stations in Broward County with prices averaging more than $4 per gallon. "People aren't complaining as much as in 2008," when gas prices hit record highs.
Many consumers already have adapted by saving money elsewhere, often shopping less or dining out less; consolidating errands; budgeting better and carpooling when possible, polls by AAA have shown.
Leah Manzo, 41, a homemaker from Fort Lauderdale, said she and her husband drive fuel-efficient cars, Mini Coopers that get about 30 miles per gallon on the highway. And they use a Vespa scooter when they can to conserve gas at prices she now calls "pretty awful."
"It's just part of the big bundle of economic problems we're facing," Manzo said.
Angel Grant, 61, a retiree in Fort Lauderdale, said he sees no quick fix, given the complexities of the oil market.
"Maybe if they solve the turmoil in the Middle East and stop fighting, the price will go down," said Grant.
Executives at Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation, the country's largest vehicle retailer, said the new "freak-out" point for consumers to change their habits significantly is no longer $4 per gallon -- but $5.
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A gallon of regular
Broward County; Palm Beach County
Monday: $3.94; $3.96
Week ago: $3.87; $3.90
Month ago: $3.48; $3.53
Year ago: $3.80; $3.83
Source: AAA Daily Fuel Gauge
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