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State’s average gas price rises slightly

Travelers will hit the roads despite cost

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Georgia will not have a dramatic impact on consumers, as the Labor Day weekend travel period approaches.

The state’s average gas price is $3.55 per gallon, compared to last week’s price of $3.50 per gallon, said Jessica Brady, spokesperson for AAA Auto Club South.

The national average is $3.61, which is a 4-cent increase from last week, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Guage Report’s web site, http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com.

“Retail gas prices have remained relatively unchanged for the past couple of weeks, but are likely to increase by a few cents going into the holiday weekend,” Brady added. Crude oil prices also made minimal gains last week, even with Hurricane Irene’s affect on the East Coast, said Brady. Crude oil closed at $85.37 a barrel on Aug. 26 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, an increase of $3.11 from the week prior, according to Brady.

“Although ... Irene has not significantly impacted the price of crude oil, the damage left behind could cause prices to rise later in the week,” added Brady. “So far, reports speculate Irene’s impact is less severe than initially expected.”

She said the U.S. Department of Energy reports that the East Coast houses 10 oil refineries that produce about 1.2 million barrels of oil a day, which accounts for approximately 7 percent of total U.S. output capacity.

If Irene damaged these refineries, and they are forced to close for repairs, it could cause gas prices to rise, she said.

Despite the increase in gas prices, automobiles will be the preferred mode of travel this Labor Day weekend for 87 percent of travelers, a 3-percent increase from last year, Brady said.

She added that seven out of 10 auto travelers’ plans will not be impacted by rising gas costs during the holiday weekend, even though retail gas prices are an average of 75 cents more than they were in 2010.

“Throughout the last six months, consumers have adapted and modified their behavior to compensate for elevated gas prices,” she said. “This is one of the reasons we expect auto travel to remain a stable means of travel this holiday weekend.”

Brady said only three out of 10 auto travelers (29 percent) will modify their travel plans, due to high gas prices. Furthermore, 20 percent of these travelers will be frugal, 5 percent will use other modes of transportation, and 4 percent will travel a shorter distance, she said.

“High gas prices will certainly have an impact on some travelers,” she said.

Motorists should follow the tips below to increase their fuel efficiency:

• Drive sensibly and safely

Driving aggressively, speeding and accelerating rapidly consumes gas and may lower gas mileage (mpg) by 33 percent at highway speeds, and by 5 percent in city limits, Brady said. Driving in a reasonable and cautious manner will save fuel.

• Avoid constant breaking

Being aware of traffic conditions before starting a trip will reduce breaking, said Brady. Drivers should be alert of other vehicles that slow down or break ahead of them. “Decelerate by coasting whenever possible,” she added.

• Remove excess weight

Taking out unnecessary items can reduce the vehicle’s miles per gallon, she said. If 100 pounds are removed from a vehicle, its mpg increases up to 2 percent, she said.

• Use air conditioning conservatively

Most air conditioners provide an “economy” or “recirculation” setting, which helps save gas, she said. These settings reduce the amount of hot outside air that is cooled.

• Download the free AAA TripTik mobile app

This app is compatible with iPhone and Android smartphones, she said. It helps users find the cheapest gas stations along their travel route. The app is available for AAA members and non-members, she explained.

AAA’s automobile travel projections are derived from IHS Global Insight, a Boston-based economic research and consulting firm, she said.