Gas prices continue to skyrocket

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Ask Riverdale resident Shirley Floyd for her opinion about rising gas prices and she will not hesitate to share it.

"They're ridiculous!" Floyd said as she pumped gas into her blue 2002 Ford Explorer at the Kroger gas station on Ga. Highway 85 in Riverdale. Despite her feelings about gas prices, Floyd said the increase has not interrupted her family's plans to travel 80 miles to Macon this July Fourth weekend.

"I've got faith. I say, 'if Bush can ride, I can ride'," she said, adding it costs her $48 to fill-up her SUV.

Floyd and her family will not be the only ones who won't let high gas prices thwart their holiday plans.

AAA Autoclub South predicts that 1.2 million Georgians will travel this holiday weekend, with more than 1 million of these vacationers traveling by automobile.

"As much as we complain about gasoline prices going to and from work, we aren't letting gasoline prices interrupt our leisure plans," AAA Autoclub South spokesman Gregg Laskoski said. "Gasoline is a very small component of the overall vacation budget. Generally speaking, typically that's less than 5 percent."

As of Thursday, Laskoski said the national average for regular unleaded gas is $2.22 – up 32 cents from a year ago.

"In Georgia, the same average price is $2.13, and a year ago it was at $1.75 in Georgia," Laskoski said. "In general, nationwide, we're looking at the highest gasoline prices ever for the Fourth of July."

The price of gas is greatly based upon the price of crude oil, which Kristin Diver, assistant director of Georgia State University's Economic Forecasting Center, said has been higher in the past.

"In 1981, oil hit its highest price, and taking into consideration inflation, if you were to calculate that into today's dollars, it would be $81 a barrel," Diver said. Simply put, people actually paid more for gas for that time period than what people are paying now, Diver explained.

As of Friday, the price of crude oil per barrel stood at $56.74, where it was just under $30 three years ago, and gas averaged about $1.20 a gallon in metro Atlanta, Diver said.

She stressed that motorists shouldn't hold their breaths in hope of seeing gas prices like they were in 2002.

"That's not going to happen for a while," she said. "According to our forecast, we are predicting that by the end of 2005, the cost for a barrel of oil will remain around $50."

Diver said that could mean metro Atlanta motorists will pay $2 a gallon for gas.

"By the end of 2006, we think that oil may go down to the mid $40s or low $40s," she said, adding that the demand for gas has increased not only in this country, but internationally.

Regardless of what's contributing to high gas prices, McDonough resident Andrew Render said the high prices have forced him to cancel a trip to Florida this weekend.

"We decided not to go because of the prices and everybody didn't have the cash," said Render, who would've driven his 2004 Chevy Trailblazer to the Sunshine State instead of the 1994 Hyundai Excel hatchback he's driving now.

"I definitely can't drive [the Trailblazer everyday] because it takes $35-$45 to fill it up," said Render, who just spent a few dollars at the QuikTrip on Ga. Highway 20/81 to top off the gas in his Excel. He said the Excel costs a total of $17 for a full tank.

In the meantime, like many other motorists, Render said he hopes the gas prices will drop some time soon.