Fuel prices

Will gas prices hit the $5 mark in 2013?

The good news for drivers is that most experts say no.

“I wouldn’t be in agreement with that. In fact we’re not seeing any major increase at all here,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com.

But he added that prices for regular unleaded could work their way into the upper $3 range, probably in April and May of this year.

“That’s typically when maintenance is taking place on refineries and they’re switching to a summer fuel mix, removing additives like butane,” DeHaan said.

Bevi Powell, vice president of community relations at AAA East Central in Pittsburgh, agreed.

“We’re anticipating a lower average price this year, based on a plentiful supply of fuel and lower oil prices,” she said. “Right now the price of oil is around $93 per barrel, and that’s significantly lower than the $150 per barrel we saw back in 2008.”

Powell said the national average price of gas in 2012 was $3.60, compared to $3.51 in 2011.

“(Wednesday) the national average was $3.30 a gallon,” she added. “The highest price was $4.02 in Hawaii, and the lowest $2.89 in Utah.”

DeHaan said there would have to be a major shift in the economy for gasoline prices to climb into the $5 range.

“That would take a huge jump in the gross domestic product and a surge in economic activity,” he said. “But we’re not seeing that in the coming year.”

Powell noted that other uncontrollable factors may impact the price of gasoline, including tensions in the Middle East and storms like last year’s Hurricane Sandy that can also increase demand on domestic oil production.

Warren Township resident Joe Vickers, 59, said he’s always been fuel-conscious.

“I grew up in the country, and my parents taught us to make the most of trips into town,” he said, adding that he makes it a point to pick up groceries or run other necessary errands on his way to and from work every day.

“But if gas goes to $5 a gallon one adjustment we would have to make is whether to visit our kids,” Vickers said. “One of my daughters lives in Florida, and the other is in the military and moving to Nebraska.”

He said higher gas prices would also likely force him to make less use of his Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“In fact, I’m considering the purchase of a more economical vehicle right now,” Vickers added.

Marietta College grad Andrew Dembowski, 23, avoids making short trips in his car to save on gas.

“Most of the time I just walk,” he said. “If I do drive it’s usually only a long-distance trip.”

Dembowski said $5 a gallon gas would be pretty steep for him, especially since he’s moving to North Carolina, which is a six-hour drive.

Ray Waller Jr., 66, of Marietta said he, too, has already made adjustments to his driving habits, and would have to make even more changes if gas prices go higher.

“We’ll have to watch where we go, and there would be no long trips,” he said. “We’d just have to stay close to home.”