Although gasoline prices decreased over the last AAA East Tennessee monitoring period, drivers in the Model City are still paying 30 cents more than they did one year ago to fill up.
Race week in Kingsport greeted drivers with an eight-cent increase but was followed by a four-cent decrease for the period ending March 21, says the latest AAA Fuel Gauge Report, with a regular unleaded price of $3.64 per gallon.
According to the price finder feature on the agency’s Web site, easttn.aaa.org, Kingsport commuters paid $3.35 a gallon at the same time last year, adding up to a $5 increase in the cost of filling up the tank based on a 15-gallon average per vehicle.
Motorists in Johnson City saw prices go up by 13 cents in one week, finally settling at a price of $3.70 per gallon — the highest posting of the major cities between here and Knoxville.
Prices in Bristol rose almost five cents at the conclusion of race festivities with an average price of $3.68 per gallon.
Strains on diplomatic ties between the United States and Middle Eastern countries and the brokers on Wall Street continue to push prices upward through crude oil trading.
“A possible factor in future oil prices is Saudi Arabian actions to contract 11 new supertankers to fill and transport more than 20 million barrels of oil to the Gulf Coast of the United States,” said AAA East Tennessee public affairs specialist Stephanie Milani.
Another thorn sure to stick in the side of drivers is the fact that filling stations are beginning their conversion to summer unleaded blends, a process that has traditionally caused spikes in gas prices over the past decade.
Chief oil analyst Tom Kloza concludes that U.S. drivers have yet to see the plateau of high gas prices this spring, with $4 per gallon prices a stark reality before mid-April due to those summer blends pushing prices by 10 to 25 cents.
A national AAA survey conducted earlier this month concludes consumers are beginning to plan their budgets more around their weekly gasoline consumption:
• 60 percent say they are already combining trips and errands.
• 52 percent are driving fewer miles than usual.
• 50 percent have reduced shopping trips.
• 45 percent are dining out less.
• 34 percent have delayed major purchases.
• 21 percent are now carpooling.