What used to be a $20 trip to the gas pump now is a $30 stop as gasoline prices edge ever closer to three dollars a gallon in the Reno-Carson City area.
"We believe that prices are going to go up over the next 30 to
45 days in Nevada, possibly breaking records that had been
previously set in 2005," said Michael Geeser, a spokesman for AAA
Regular gasoline is going for prices a few cents below $3 at the
less expensive stations in Reno, Sparks and Carson City. Higher
octane fuel already has inched above $3.
Clifford Harper, a driver for Capitol Cab in Carson City, said
he has to make extra in tips to offset hiring fuel prices. Cab
drivers often cover their own fuel costs in addition to paying a
portion of their earnings to cab companies, he said.
Peter Krueger, state executive for the Nevada Petroleum
Marketers Association, said major oil companies already are feeling
heat from Congress over record profits and he doesn't think prices
will stay high in an election year.
"I don't believe we're going to have consistent $3 a gallon gas
in the foreseeable future," Krueger told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Krueger and Geeser said investors speculating on fuel to make a
profit - buying it now with the expectation of making money by
selling it for a higher price in the future - are part of the
reason fuel prices are going up. Turmoil in Iraq and Iran add to
fears of problems in the future, they said.
Geeser said there are other problems peculiar to the West, such
as switching from winter gasoline fuel blends to summer blends.
That shuts down refineries for one to two weeks and fuel supplies
decrease, driving up prices.
Prices probably will peak closer to Memorial Day, but Geeser
said it's not clear how it will affect holiday travel.
"Prices have gone up earlier than normal, and we think prices
will probably decline and settle earlier than normal," he said.
Steve Yarborough, who operates four gas stations in Reno, said
big oil companies make more money when gas prices rise, but not
They make less money because as prices rise people are more
likely to use credit cards to pay for fuel purchases instead of
cash. That means more of their gas sales go to the 3-percent fees
collected by credit card companies, Yarborough said.