Local gas prices soar

Average in Vancouver is $3.95 per gallon, with some stations charging more than $4

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

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Gasoline prices have climbed every day for 33 consecutive days, rising more than 40 cents to flirt with the $4 mark for a gallon of regular unleaded on Tuesday in Vancouver.

And if filling your tank has emptied your wallet, just wait until spring, when some experts expect fuel will become even more costly.

Surging crude oil prices, which stabilized at just over $100 per barrel this week, have pushed gasoline prices up to a national average of $3.72 per gallon. But drivers in the Pacific Northwest are paying much more, thanks to a fire and explosion that shut down Washington’s largest refinery earlier this month. California’s switch to more expensive summer blends of fuel has also pushed up West Coast pricing. In Vancouver on Tuesday, regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.95 a gallon, and at many stations it topped $4, according to surveys by AAA and GasBuddy.com.

That’s spurring some local drivers to curse, and forcing people on fixed budgets to change their habits.

David Adams, a Portland resident taking classes at Clark College, said he’s carpooling to class and taking the bus to get around because he can’t afford to fill his tank.

“I’ve missed class when I can’t get a ride,” Adams said from a downtown Vancouver Chevron station, where he waited for his driver to pay $4.13 per gallon Tuesday morning.

Expensive spring

Historically, Americans’ appetite for fuel has contributed to high gasoline prices. This year, however, U.S. oil consumption has been anemic, while speculators and Middle East unrest have pushed prices up, according to a report by AAA Oregon/Idaho, which also serves Southwest Washington.

As snow thaws and the U.S. driving season gets going, AAA forecasters expect fuel prices will climb further still, possibly reaching $4.35 for a gallon of regular unleaded by spring. That would tie Vancouver’s highest-ever average price, set on June 28, 2008.

Vancouver’s $3.95 Tuesday average was three pennies more than the average Portland gas station charged. A year ago, regular unleaded averaged $3.48 in Vancouver and $3.46 in Portland.