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Gas Prices Changing Driving Habits

Rising gasoline prices may have slowed somewhat, but it is changing the driving habits of some Houston motorists. They're trading gas guzzlers for more economical transportation. One Houston analyst says the violence in the Middle East is also affecting overall prices. Pat Hernandez has more.


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Drivers seem to be splitting their blame on rising gasoline prices. One poll, by McClatchy Newspapers and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, finds 36 pct point to the instability in the Middle East, while 33-percent blame oil companies. Only 11-percent of drivers surveyed blame Democrats & the Obama Administration, while 6-percent blame Congressional Republicans.

Barbara Shook is with the Energy Intelligence Group in Houston. She says unanticipated events in the Middle East are causing an interruption in oil exports.

“Some of these countries don’t necessarily export to the U.S., but it’s a reduction in the overall supply. However, we still have plenty of oil, its just not necessarily the type of oil that a given refiner might want.”

Shook says some traders are playing on the instability, which is contributing to the prices going up and not surprisingly, to consumption as well.

“Prices will come down at some point, because your basic consumer is gonna say I can’t stand four dollars a gallon on gasoline to make a cross country trip.”

Dan Ronan with AAA. He agrees with Shook, in that consumers are reacting to gasoline prices that’s led to a 2-percent drop in purchases last week.

“We saw last week for instance, a two percent drop in the amount of gasoline that was purchased in the United States. That’s a pretty significant drop off by consumers, well into the millions of gallons of gasoline where people are just saying, ‘okay, I’m gonna park the car or maybe. I’m gonna drive just one car instead of two. I’m gonna consolidate my trips and be more careful about how I drive.'”

As the price gasoline tops 4-dollars a gallon for regular self-serve, Ronan says it’s changing the mind set of motorists.

“Because fuel efficiency standards on cars are going up, older vehicles that were heavier gas guzzlers are getting off the road.  We’re seeing more hybrids; we’re seeing more alternative fuel vehicles that are being used. So, changes are taking place almost overnight.”

I found this woman filling up her luxury SUV at a mid-town service station. She told me she’s expecting to spend 70-dollars.

“I think of the people who have no money or very little money, and what are they doing? Giving up food or something for gas? It’s pretty scary. Oh, I lied, it was only 60-dollars. But, people are in a quandary. For me, it affects my consulting rates.”

The national average price for a gallon of regular was about 30-cents higher than a month ago, and almost a dollar higher than a year ago.

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