The cost of filling up can be painful

By Jason Hawk -

Are you frustrated by gas prices?

Drivers are spending $69 per month more to fill up now than they did last summer, AAA estimates.

That’s because the national average price of gasoline has soared 25 percent over the past year, leaving prices about 60 cents per gallon more expensive than a year ago.

Early Tuesday, we found unleaded prices in Amherst ranging from $2.62 to $2.94, though most were generally in the $2.65 range. Oberlin prices ran from $2.72 to $2.79 and Wellington prices were around $2.87 per gallon.

High prices are changing the driving habits of some local readers. “We try not to drive as much if possible,” Heather Thompson-Vandeweerd told us on Facebook.

Christopher Farnsworth said he carpools as much as he can to divide the cost of fuel. “It takes some planning but it saves a lot of money,” he said.

The good news is that Northeast Ohio pump prices dropped by four cents in the past week to average $2.72, according to AAA.

That’s still far more expensive than the same week last year, when gas sat at $2.16 per gallon — but a lot better than the $4 wallet-busting prices that hit us during the 2008 recession.

Prices statewide fell an average of 10 cents in the past week, making Ohio the biggest winner nationwide. Other Great Lakes states found a little relief too, thanks to increasing gas stockpiles.

But that trend could reverse, industry analysts warn.

Gasoline demand spiked in the latest Energy Information Administration report, setting a new record for the week ending June 8. At the same time, gas inventories plummeted by 2.27 million barrels across the country.

“If demand continues to strengthen and inventories decrease in the weeks ahead, motorists may see gas prices do a reversal and start to increase again,” AAA speculated.

A June 22 OPEC meeting in Austria could help stabilize prices. The cartel is expected to discuss increasing oil production to control price gains.

“Average gas prices in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest in a month, following oil’s continued slump as OPEC appears poised to adjust oil production levels and the U.S. nears its hitting 11 million barrels of oil pumped per day, the highest level ever,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, a firm that tracks gas prices based on crowd-sourced information.

Through ups and downs, both gasoline and oil prices have shown steady increases in the past several months — the price of U.S. oil rose to $72 per barrel last month and has dropped back below $67.

Surging gas costs are driving much of the increase of U.S. consumer prices, which rose 0.2 percent in May, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

It reported this past week that the consumer price index climbed 2.8 percent last month from a year earlier, putting inflation on its fastest annual pace since February 2012.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk