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Residents worried about rising fuel costs
National average is $3.17 per gallon, up 5 cents from last week
Martha Stanfill prepares to fill up her vehicle Wednesday at the Texaco station on Dawsonville Highway. Stanfill said she spends about $70 to fill up for a week of driving round trip from her home in Lula to Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

Chad Browning parked his white Jeep next to the gas pump, got out of his vehicle and made a face as he looked at the per-gallon price.

"I just winced," he said.

Browning fills up his tank about once a week, and he is darn happy he doesn't commute to Atlanta.

But that doesn't make buying gas any more relaxing for the Gainesville driver who figures fuel prices will keep heating up with the turmoil in Libya and the Middle East.

"With the way everything is going over there I see it going up to four or five bucks," Browning said. "That could happen. I'm concerned."

Drivers faced another hike in gas prices as oil costs again increased.

The national average is $3.17 per gallon, up 5 cents from last week, according to figures referenced Wednesday by AAA Auto Club South. The organization reported Georgia averages between $3.11 and $3.40, with the diesel average listed at $3.51.

The flux has M.P. Patel, who owns Texaco at Lakeshore on Dawsonville Highway, keeping his calculator handy as he negotiates his bottom line.

What that meant for the businessman Wednesday morning was a choice to sacrifice 4 cents per gallon at the pump in hopes of recouping those losses inside the store.

"The more money they pump in gas, the less money they spend in the store," Patel said.

When gasoline costs escalate, drivers typically spend smaller amounts on fuel rather than top off their tanks, he said. That's what many of his customers are doing now.
"They're just filling as much as they need, hoping that gas prices will go down," Patel said.

The reality is, however, retail gas prices will increase so long as the price of oil does, said Garrett Townsend, senior travel manager for AAA Auto Club South.

The time of year is also a factor with high travel seasons of spring and summer looming as big variables.

Entering 2011, experts predicted the national average would range from $3.35 to $3.75 a gallon during the spring and summer, Townsend said.

"Will we see $4 or $4.50 a gallon gas this summer? It's hard to say," he said. "It's hard enough to predict where prices will be three weeks from now, much less three months from now. It really is a ‘wait and see' game that depends on how issues unfold in the Middle East."

Edna Graham, 83, keeps tabs on world events, but she's not consumed with the latest headlines.

She is retired and mainly drives to her routine errands such as the grocery store and church.

What sparked conversation was how much gas used to cost.

Before noon Wednesday Graham looked to the pump after she finished pumping her gas. It read $13.19 for the 4.19 gallons.

She started walking toward the Texaco at Lakeshore's front doors with her money.

When Graham started driving, she said, the cost per gallon was under $1.

"You could fill your tank up for four or five dollars," she said.