• 81°

AAA: Don’t panic over gas prices

Eyebrows have been rising at the pumps recently right along with gas prices, which are creeping into the high two-dollar range.

Memories of the gas price hike of summer 2008 still haunt many consumers who watch gas station signs with a mindful eye.

Experts say not to panic though.

“This is just the time of year where we see prices increase because our demand naturally increases,” said Clay Ingram, public relations and marketing manager for Alabama AAA.

Ingram said the trend occurs every year around spring after drivers have recovered financially from the holidays and have begun to get out and enjoy the weather.

“It’s not unexpected by any means,” he said.

Ingram said economic factors may be currently influencing gas prices, as well.

“There seems to be a little optimism on the Wall Street side of things that the economy might be turning around,” he said.

That confidence drives up the price of commodities as investors rush to buy crude oil.

Still, Ingram said that at $83 per barrel, the price of oil is where it should be, and while demand is rising as expected, it is still relatively low.

“Our demand right now comparatively, is really mild,” he said.

For that reason, Ingram explained consumers shouldn’t worry about any dramatic increases in gas prices like what was seen two years ago.

“That will be why we won’t see our prices go up a dollar per gallon in a month,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ll see anything that extreme this year.”

Ingram said that high inventories and favorable refining capacities are also factors that will likely prevent sudden gas price increases since they would allow for the accommodation of a sudden spike in demand.

In fact, Ingram said gas prices could be near a high-mark for the year.

“I’m not even sure we’ll go over $3 a gallon this year. If we do, it won’t be by much,” he said.

Usually prices reach their peak on Memorial Day and bottom out in January and February.

According to the AAA daily fuel gauge report, at $2.75 per gallon, average gas prices in Alabama remain lower on average than the rest of the country at $2.85.

“We are almost always at about 8 to 10 cents below the national average,” Ingram said.

That daily report is based on data from about 80 percent of gas stations around the country.