Gas prices accelerating in mountains |

Gas prices accelerating in mountains

Cliff Thompson

“You could be losing an entire tank of gas a month if you don’t maintain your vehicle,” said Mary Greer, a AAA spokeswoman.

Want to do something about the recent spike in gas prices?

Move to South Carolina, where you’ll find the cheapest gas in the nation. Friday the price per-gallon of regular there was just $1.72.6.

That’s nearly 15 cents a gallon less than the national average, and a country mile beneath Vail’s average price of $2.19 per-gallon of regular. The new prices reflect the strong demand from an increasingly industrial global economy for motor fuel. They’re also the highest fuel prices ever recorded, easily surpassing the prices set in June 2001.

Predictably, the new price records aren’t spreading joy at the gas pumps. Comments from motorists filling up at local gas stations Friday reflect their frustration with the upward spiral in the price of fuel.

“It sucks,” said Ted Schneider of Red Cliff. “I was just in Utah and they were getting $1.99 a gallon. Hopefully it won’t go up (here) any more.”

Christ Statzer of Vail was buying enough gas to make it to Denver where he would take advantage of the cheaper prices and fill up his vehicle. Gasoline in Denver is selling for an average of $1.89 a gallon.

“It’s too high,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve gotta have gas.”

Prices have increased 10 cents a gallon in the last month and aren’t going to decrease soon, said Mary Greer, spokeswoman for the Colorado division of the American Automobile Association.

“Demand is higher now than at the peak last summer,” she said. “Colorado is always challenged by the number of special blended fuels we have to use.”

Those blended fuels help to reduce air pollution along the Front Range.

So how high will the price climb?

Greer said she expects the average price in Colorado to surpass $2 a gallon by summer. If the current pricing differential between Front Range and mountains maintains its spread, you could see gas priced at $2.30 or more per-gallon of regular.

And you won’t have to wait long. Greer said she expects prices to spike again before the Memorial Day weekend, which is traditionally a travel-intensive holiday.

Global demand for gasoline is at an all-time high and being compounded by an increasingly industrial and developing China which is using more and more fuel.

“China’s thirst for energy has skyrocketed,” she said. “It’s well above analysts’ estimates. The U.S. is challenged by global competition like we’ve never seen.”

So far crude oil prices have held at or slightly above the $40 per-barrel level. That’s still slightly below the record price spike of $41.15 a barrel set in October 1990 right after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Current unrest in the Middle East, which supplies one-third of the world’s oil, is also fueling speculation in oil futures.

The U.S. , which has just 5 percent of the world’s population, uses 45 percent of the world’s gasoline, averaging 20 million barrels per day.

But if you think the price of gas here is high, consider what European motorists pay. Prices for fuel there are nearly triple what they are here.

How to save a gallon or more

There are two things drivers can do that to save money on fuel prices. Neither of them occur at the pump:

– The first is to make sure your tires are properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can reduce miles per-gallon by 10 percent, according to Colorado AAA, a motorist advocate group.

– The second thing you can do is to make sure your motor is running properly and is tuned up. Improperly tuned engines can sap an additional 10 percent.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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