The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 4, 2008

Gas drives prices up

By Melissa Dunson

mdunson@joplinglobe.com

There’s good news, and then there’s the bad news.

The good news is that Missouri was one of only two states in the country with average gasoline prices under $3 a gallon Monday afternoon, according to Mike Right, vice president of public affairs for AAA.

The bad news is that it probably won’t stay that way.

The dark view of gasoline’s future is based on both crude-oil and diesel prices hitting record highs Monday.

According to Right, the same barrel of crude oil that cost Americans $60 last year cost $103 Monday. That’s a 71 percent increase. Diesel prices hit a record high national average of $3.67 a gallon Monday.

“Diesel looks like it’s headed for $4 a gallon,” Right said. “Nobody can really predict (unleaded) gasoline prices tomorrow, much less next week, but they could get there too.”

The average price Monday for regular unleaded gasoline was $2.98 in Missouri and $2.95 in the Joplin area, compared with the national average of $3.165. Right said fuel prices typically hit their highest point in the spring, when oil producers switch from winter to spring fuel, so the worst could still be on its way.

After years of regularly paying more than $2 a gallon for gas, the sticker shock at the pump has started to wear off for some consumers. Sara Terrill, of Joplin, said she has adjusted to high fuel prices by cutting down on the number of trips she makes around town.

“I don’t drive anywhere but work anymore,” she said.

But the sting also is hitting consumers in grocery stores and restaurants, as rising fuel costs are forcing business owners to pass on freight surcharges and price increases to customers. Everett Guder, of Moran, Kan., said he does everything he can to cut down on the amount of gasoline he uses, but it keeps costing him more to fill up, and now he’s feeling it at the grocery store too.

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