Gas prices in Carson City have jumped 40 cents in the past month and, fueled by a world-wide shortage of crude oil, are rising daily.
The run-up to a record of an average of $1.82 a gallon for self-serve unleaded exceeds anything gas station operators have seen and shows no sign of abating anytime soon, despite assurances that somebody - the government, oil producers, somebody - will find a way to slow it.
"I've been selling gas for 18 years and I've never seen it this bad," Mohammed Ahmad, owner of the Eagle Gas and Gas and Save stations in Carson City, said Tuesday.
Ahmad said he is paying more for gas with each delivery.
"There's nothing the oil companies can do about it. They all are paying the same price for oil," Jeff Arneson, assistant manager of his father Al's A&C Texaco station, said. He said that this is the worst he's seen in 10 years at the station.
AAA Nevada reported the record price Tuesday when it released the results of its regular monthly gas price survey. Reno gas prices went up 18 cents in the past two weeks to an average of $1.86, which is 35 cents higher than a month ago. Las Vegas prices were up 15 cents in the past two weeks to an average of $1.73. That is 26 cents higher than a month ago, AAA Nevada reported.
The highest price at any major American city is $1.90 in San Francisco, while $2 a gallon in Eureka, Calif., may be the highest for any mid-size to large city, according to the report.
Arneson said his customers are not cutting back on how much gas they buy, but many are downgrading from premium to unleaded or unleaded plus.
"I think they are going to continue to buy gas. Texaco customers are Texaco customers, just like Chevron customers are Chevron customers," he said.
Ahmad said that people are beginning to buy less gas at his stations, but that March usually is a slow month for his business.
"The tourism season has not started yet, people are still paying their Christmas bills and taxes are coming up," Ahmad said.
So far, neither station has had customers wanting to stockpile fuel before the next increase. Some previous gas shortages or price increases, such as the 1973 oil crisis, had prompted the hazardous hoarding by some drivers.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is to meet in Vienna on March 27 to consider its production limits. The cartel is expected to increase production and bring some relief to world oil prices.
"No one - inside or outside of OPEC - really knows what the right level of production is for the desired price range," Alan Kovski, an energy analyst with the Kiplinger letter in Washington, D.C., said Monday. "With oil inventories so low and OPEC so uncertain, it's really hard to tell when a downward trend in gas prices will start.
"Refineries don't want to build inventories in a high-priced period."
Steps reportedly being considered by the U.S. government include releasing oil from the nation's strategic reserve or suspending some or all of the federal tax on gasoline.
But the federal gas tax reduction would reportedly amount to less than 6 cents a gallon, a fraction of the past month's increase. And Nevadans pay about 52 cents a gallon just in state and local taxes.
Gas price chart
Station Feb. 24 March 14
Shell $1.62 $1.92
Union 76 $1.60 $1.90
Chevron $1.60 $1.90
AM/PM $1.46 $1.80
7-Eleven $1.52 $1.87
Protect yourself from high gas prices
AAA Nevada offered the following tips to reduce the impact of high gasoline prices:
- Drive sparingly - Combine errands into one trip. Avoid jackrabbit starts and sudden acceleration. Anticipate stops by letting up on the gas pedal before braking. Do not speed.
- Maintain vehicle - An out-of-tune vehicle works harder, uses more fuel and wears out the engine prematurely. Change oil regularly, keep the oil level in the safe range and check the air filter each time you change the oil.
- Buy the right fuel - Check the owner's manual for proper grade of fuel. Ninety percent of cars are designed to run on regular fuel, yet premium fuel sales account for 20 percent of gasoline sales.