Pain at the pump

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Don’t expect the price of gasoline to go down anytime soon.

In fact, gasoline prices are going to continue to rise, according to travel and oil industry officials.

Richard Horn, who was filling his car up Wednesday night at the C&S Valero station in Portales, and said he’d noticed the price had jumped from $3.09 to $3.15 that day.

“I’ll just have to cut down on my driving,” Horn said. “It’s liable to drive the whole country into recession if it keeps going (up).

Gas prices in Portales increased about 15 cents a gallon since last Friday, according to AAA New Mexico figures.

“Prices will rise in the near future, if it continues on the market the way it is, up to $3.75 by summer,” Ruben Baca executive director of Petroleum Marketers Association, said.

“A lot is going to be told over Thanksgiving,” Baca said. “It will tell us what consumers are thinking, if they will back down or if they will continue to use as much gas as they always have.”

The price of gasoline in Portales has risen more than a dollar a gallon since October 2006, according to AAA New Mexico.

AAA New Mexico spokesperson Jeannie Chavez attributed the spike to several causes.

“First thing to remember, oil prices have been going up for a long time and it hasn’t affected prices for consumers as it should yet,”

Chavez said. “Long-term high oil prices have to be passed on to the consumer sooner or later.”

Oil prices have increased 42 percent since August, setting a new high Wednesday of $98.62 a barrel.

The rise in shopping and travel for the Thanksgiving holiday also contributes to the rise of gasoline prices, Chavez said, as well as the rising need for heating oil in the east.

The refineries switch to making heating oil and the inventory of gasoline goes down, taking prices up, she said. Increased industrialization of China and India is also raising the demand for oil, according to Chavez.

Paige Whitecotton of Portales said she wasn’t happy about the recent rise in gasoline prices.

“My kids go to school at Floyd, so we even bought a little car to help out.”

She said she’s also a part of a carpool of other families going to school in Floyd and says every little bit helps.

The Energy Information Administration predicts gas prices will remain above $2.90 a gallon for the rest of the year and will set a new record national average of $3.235 a gallon by May. In May 2007, prices peaked at $3.227 a gallon as refiners, faced with a series of unexpected outages, struggled to produce enough gas to meet demand.

Liliana Castillo of Freedom New Mexico and the Associated Press
contributed to this report.