Gasoline prices: How high will they go this time?

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on February 27, 2011 at 11:01 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 28 at 10:26 AM

Poll:
Are you changing your driving habits because of higher gas prices?

DALLAS — A gallon of gasoline averaged $3.22 on Sunday night in Dallas and Fort Worth. But motorists should be bracing for yet another overnight spike.

Gas prices rocketed 20 cents in just three days this weekend, a faster increase than we've seen since Hurricane Katrina interrupted operations at Gulf Coast refineries.

With continued trouble in the oil-producing regions of the Middle East and North Africa, the pain at the pump is likely to get worse.

The situation has analysts worried, and one told News 8 he expects gas prices to yo-yo a bit.

The fear is not necesarily what's happening now, but what could happen in the coming months.

Already, airline ticket prices are reaching for the sky. Carriers have hiked their fares five times so far just this year.

"As long as fuel stays where it is, expect more of these fare hikes and fuel surcharges," said Tom Parsons of BestFares.com.

Unrest in oil-producing nations is causing gasoline prices to rise once again, sparking memories of 2008 when oil hit record highs and unleaded gas topped $4 a gallon nationally.

It proved to be a major blow to the economy and commuters embraced public transportation in huge numbers as folks who could quit driving.

The price of nearly everything went up as a result.

But analysts don't expect a repeat this time. For one thing, they don't expect the panic to be as severe because many consumers already know how to adjust to save on gas.

Analysts also don't expect gasoline to spike above $4 a gallon.

Parsons said even the airlines have more cushion this time around, because passengers on most carriers are still being charged all those baggage fees and surcharges that materialized after the last oil spike.

"The airlines have already brought their price points up since 2008; you are paying more than you were in 2008," Parsons said. "They're still going to have to bring them up, but they've got a lot of pad in there right now."

Some analysts don't expect huge jumps in the price of gasoline, but that's with one very big assumption — the unrest ends soon in Libya and doesn't spread to some of the other oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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