• 88°

Conserving fuel can offset gas prices

While the prices for gasoline are higher than expected this summer, an area fuel expert said there are a couple of things the consumer can do to combat higher prices at the pump this summer.

Clay Ingram, spokesperson for AAA Alabama, said he expected prices to remain relatively stable for the remainder of the summer, but circumstances could change depending on crude oil prices and other factors.

The current national average has been hovering around the $3.16 per gallon mark for regular gasoline for the last week while Alabama’s average has remained around $2.83 for the past week, about 33-cents lower than the national average.

During the height of the pandemic a year ago, regular gas was only $1.89 a gallon in Alabama. However, Ingram said the current price is near the same amount as the summer of 2019.  He said consumers have two tools they can use to combat higher prices at the pump.

“Fuel conservation is the first thing you can do,” Ingram said. “Use as little fuel as you need. If your family has two cars, use the most fuel efficient vehicle. If you have a lot of errands to run, combine them all into one trip instead of making several trips. Little things like that can keep you from burning fuel.”

According to automotive-fleet.com, just a little common sense and some simple vehicle maintenance can dramatically increase fuel efficiency.

According to automotive-fleet:

• Idling a car for long periods of time can can consume a lot of gas. Starting a vehicle consumes as much gas as idling for 30 seconds, so anyone planning on sitting in the car for more than a minute should turn off the engine instead of letting the car idle.

• Clean out the trunk to reduce weight of the vehicle. Each additional 200 pounds of weight causes the vehicle to lose about one mile in fuel efficiency.

• Keep tires properly inflated. Underinflated tires can cause a loss of about 2 percent of fuel economy for each psi below the recommended manufacturer level.

• Only purchase premium fuel if the vehicle requires it.

• Observe posted speed limits. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a 10 to 15 percent fuel economy improvement when driving 55 mph compared to 65 mpg.

While there’s not a lot an individual consumer can do about the price at the pump, Ingram said there is power in collective buying habits.

Ingram said people do well with selecting vehicles with good fuel economy cars, but as consumers, he said people, in general, were “terrible” at price shopping.

“In a lot of cases, the people doing the loudest complaining about gas prices are the ones that aren’t price shopping,” Ingram said. “People shop by convenience. We choose a location close to where we live and work that is on the right-hand side of the road, so we don’t have to cross traffic, and we pick a location that has bright lights, looks safe and has easy access. And then, that’s where we go, because that’s where we go.

“We buy gas exclusively by convenience. A lot of people have a favorite gas station. It may be a snack they get inside they can’t get anywhere else or maybe an icee and nobody else sells icees. But, whatever the reason, we’re just not price shopping. We’re sending the fuel companies a message that ‘You can charge us whatever you want and we’ll pay it.’ We should be sending them the message that ‘If you want to sell gas to me, you’re going to have to sell it cheaper.’”

Ingram said consumers should pay more attention to the prices at the locations they stop at for convenience. He said by looking around a little, people may find a station with gas about 5-cents cheaper per gallon. He said saving $2 or $3 per tank isn’t that much, but over the course of a year it adds up. He said if more people shopped around for low priced gas, it would put downward pressure on demand and would lower the cost at the pump in the long run.