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August 1, 2014

Gas price, traffic expected to be high for holiday weekend

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Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 4:36 pm | Updated: 5:00 pm, Wed Jul 2, 2014.

Gas prices at the pump in Alabama will be the highest they’ve been on Independence Day since 2008, according to petroleum experts.

After a steady decrease in cost-per-gallon since mid-April, prices spiked by about 5 cents on average in the last week mostly due to conflict in Iraq, said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with Gas Buddy, a website that tracks petroleum prices.

“If it wasn’t for Iraq, you could have been looking at $3.25 a gallon by now in Alabama,” DeHaan said Wednesday. “But instead, you’re looking at $3.42, which is higher than it was a week ago.”

Gas prices in Alabama peaked this year on April 20, DeHaan said, with an average of $3.57, before sliding down to around $3.37 by the end of June. Alabama mirrored nationwide trends which saw far cheaper gas prices in the first half of 2014 compared to a year ago.

“This situation in Iraq completely ruined that trend, though,” DeHaan said, referring to the recent violence there involving the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Any price hike at the pumps is expected to do little to derail heavy holiday traffic, according to Clay Ingram, public relations and marketing manager with AAA in Alabama.

“We’re anticipating more than 41 million people nationwide will travel more than 50 miles on the Fourth of July this year,” Ingram said. “That’s almost 2 percent more than last year, which might not seem like a lot, but it is.”

Weaver resident Ann Cruz expects to be putting well more than 50 miles on her car this weekend when she travels to Huntsville and Florida for a family reunion. While filling up the tank in her red Buick at the Murphy USA station on McClellan Boulevard Wednesday, Cruz said that while she would like gas to be cheaper, the price won’t alter her holiday plans.

“We always go see family on the holiday,” said Cruz, wearing a red-white-and-blue scarf. “It would be nice if things weren’t so expensive, but we always go.”

Also expected to be the highest since 2008, Ingram said, is the volume of traffic on the roads this Fourth of July. He said the nation’s drivers hope to make up for a cold, bitter winter, as well as take advantage of a slightly better economy and the timing of the holiday for a three-day weekend.  

“There’s going to be a lot of cars, and they’re going to be moving a lot slower than we’re used to,” Ingram said.

The threat of heavy, slow-moving traffic, though, is enough to keep some home for the holiday. Weaver resident Glenn Stedham said he learned years ago to stay off the road during peak traffic days, and with gas prices the way they are, he said he’s better off.

“When I bought this I used to fill up on 20 bucks,” said Stedham, while filling up his white Toyota Corolla at the Murphy USA. “Now it’s like 35. If they get any higher, I’m going to have to stop going anywhere.”

Anniston resident Marcus Goodman, who has plans on going to Atlanta Friday to see friends, said consumers don’t have much of a choice but to pay the price.

“It’s a necessity, so they charge as much as they can because they know they can get away with it,” Goodman said. “Gas prices are ridiculous.”

The good news, though, according to DeHaan, is the recent upswing is expected to be a minor hitch in what could be a return to decreasing prices throughout the summer. The situation in Iraq, he said, is unlikely to play a continued role in the price of gas. Mother Nature, however, could be a major factor. With hurricane season right around the corner, DeHaan said, gas prices in Alabama will likely depend on whether storms avoid the Gulf Coast this season.

“The bottom line is if the storms don’t hit, gas prices will decrease,” DeHaan said. “If they do, then prices won’t.”

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