By CHRIS AGEE
Local motorists say they are absorbing a marked rise in fuel prices any way they can, though most admit they are unable to significantly cut their use of gasoline.
According to a report by GasBuddy.com, which tracks fuel price fluctuations nationwide, the average retail price of a gallon of gasoline in Texas has increased by 14.4 cents over the past week.
While the current statewide average price represents a jump of 8.3 cents per gallon compared to this time last year, a month-to-month comparison tells a more dramatic story. As of Monday, gas prices in Texas were just under 40 cents per gallon higher than one month ago.
The national average saw an increase of 42.2 cents over January.
Local resident Mike McConnell said he doesn't travel for business but uses a significant amount of fuel on his ranch.
"I haven't really cut back," he said. "You feel it."
He explained there is little he can do in response to rising costs and plans to bear it the best he can until prices fall again.
Fred Fisher of Fisher Mechanical explained he must travel for work and can't meaningfully reduce his use of gasoline.
"You can't stop working," he said. "You just cut back on other areas."
He said individuals in his situation have little recourse and "kind of just have to roll it into your prices."
Mike Ward, owner of Award Oil Co. in Mineral Wells, said his clients are using fuel as fast as he can supply it, regardless of cost.
"I'm doing commercial-type things mostly, and farms and ranches," he said. "They have to keep going."
He contends speculators and commodities traders are responsible for much of the spike in costs.
"I fully believe it's speculation," he said. "I don't think there's any justification for any of it."
Ward said he personally noticed a 30-cent increase per gallon over a four-day period.
"Last Thursday," he continued, "I was talking to my supplier and he said over the last two days he had seen a 14-cent increase."
He said the rise and fall of gas prices is largely unpredictable.
"I don't think there's anything that's going to stop the fluctuation," he said.
The state average for a gallon of gas is 12 cents less than the nationwide average of $3.68, though GasBuddy.com predicts a continued increase across the board.
"The steady climb of retail gas prices is likely to continue following double-digit increases in wholesale prices with fuel production tightening in the majority of the country's refineries," said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.
He explained some areas of the nation, including Los Angeles, have seen increases of up to 55 cents per gallon within one month. Many metropolitan areas now have average gasoline prices north of $4 per gallon.
GasBuddy also operates regional websites which monitor local fuel prices. According to data from Dallas, which is the nearest urban center included in the network of sites, North Texas prices generally fall between the state and national averages.
As of Monday afternoon, the Dallas average was just over $3.63 per gallon.