Eric Lowry and his family have pared down from two cars to one, ridden mass transit and carpooled to cope with high gas prices in the past year.
On Monday when oil prices crept to record highs Lowry paid about $41.50 for 13 gallons of regular self-service unleaded at a Chevron at 875 S. State in Salt Lake City and talked about his summer vacation plans. Typically, the Murray family travels to southern Utah.
"We're a big road trip family," he said.
But this year, the Lowrys will stay a little closer to home, he said.
On Monday, oil prices rose above $108 a barrel to a new inflation-adjusted record. On Wall Street, news of the oil prices sent the Dow Jones industrial average spiraling down 153.54 points to close at 11,740.15.
At the pump, the national average price of a gallon of gas rose to $3.222 a gallon, just below the all-time high of $3.227 last May, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.
That's 69 cents higher than one year ago.
In Utah, a gallon averaged $3.13 the 13th lowest in the country, AAA of Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough said.
"A year ago, the price in Utah was $2.32, and we were complaining then," she said.
Utah's all-time high gas price was $3.28 on May 31, 2007, Fairclough said.
Gas prices are high because of a weak U.S. dollar, inflation and high prices for all commodities, including gas, Fairclough said.
"Right now, this is traditionally the low time of the year, because what refineries are doing is getting rid of the winter formulations," Fairclough said. "Having said that, over the last year, we have seen demand drop for gasoline throughout the country. And then we have relatively strong supplies right now. This goes beyond the supply and demand."
Prices could approach $4 a gallon, though most analysts believe prices will peak below that mark. The Energy Department, in a forecast last month, said prices will peak around $3.40 a gallon this spring. A new forecast is due today.
When Steve McDaniel, a truck driver from Wendell, Idaho, fills his 300-gallon tank, he averts his eyes from the pump.
"I'm scared to look at the price," he said as he filled up at the Flying J station at 850 W. 2100 South.
These days, a gallon of diesel in Salt Lake City costs $3.799, meaning that McDaniel pays more than $1,000 to fill up his truck.
"As a (truck) owner-operator, you don't have the luxury to have a wage," McDaniel said, en route to Spokane, Wash., to deliver insulation.
Noel Ballew, a truck driver from Yakima, Wash., remembers the 1990s, when diesel cost 99 cents a gallon. Ballew owns his own truck, but Salt Lake City-based Spider Transport schedules his routes and typically adds on a 15 percent fuel surcharge for an average load, which the company charges $6,000 for Ballew to transport.
On Monday, Ballew was filling up at the Flying J station en route to transport vehicles to South Florida.
He says that the 15 percent surcharge doesn't always cover fuel costs: "Most of the time, the owner-operator is eating fuel surcharges."
Allison Martin is also accepting higher gas prices as part of life. She lives in downtown Salt Lake City but commutes to Sandy for work.
"I suck it up and pay it," she said. "During the summer, it's going to be easier, because you can walk more."
Martin also plays in an indie-pop band called Cavedoll. Band members want to book more out-of-town shows but pause at the thought of paying for gas."I'd love to tour more," she said. "But to pay so much money to get there, are you going to make enough money?"
Contributing: Associated Press E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]