Gas prices increasing

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Charles Clapper, 24, pumps fuel Friday at Jifi Stop in Hayden as his girlfriend Angie Nelson waits in the passenger seat.

Idaho is playing catch-up.

State gas prices have escalated 14 cents since the beginning of the month, ending a 10-week break from having fuel prices well above national average.

"Idaho had a respite, and may be simply catching up," said Dave Carlson, spokesman for AAA Idaho, adding that wholesale prices were down in Idaho for about two months. "The prices charged for a wholesale price have been lower here than they have in other parts of the country, and now those prices, we assume, are on the rise."

The state average is currently $3.10 a gallon. Gas prices in six Idaho cities on Friday ranged from $2.95 in Lewiston to $3.25 in Nampa.

That still cuts below the national average of $3.16, and is far superior to the Washington average of $3.33.

On Friday in Coeur d'Alene, most gas stations listed $2.96 per gallon of regular, if paid in cash.

Carlson believes the state might have had its low price kick because refineries were giving the state a break after it led the nation in fuel prices most of the year.

"That's maybe wishful thinking," he said.

Prices will continue to rise, he predicted.

Already the cost of fuel this year has surpassed peak summer prices last May, when the state average was $3.08.

"We're obviously at or above that level already, and during the slowest time of the year (for gas purchases)," Carlson said.

Prices will bump up because of inventory limits when refineries get rid of winter grade fuels, he said.

The crisis in Egypt also vaulted prices for a few days, but didn't cause long-term raises, he added.

Some experts, Carlson said, expect that gas prices will only rise the first half of the year and then level off.

"The economy is still in a fairly delicate position. It may not be able to absorb the types of increases that prognosticators of $4 or $5 gas suggest," he said. "I don't think that's a reasonable way to prognosticate."

Charles Clapper, pumping gas for $2.89 at an Exxon station on Friday, said higher gas prices would be a hindrance to the lawn company he just started.

"It will be expensive going from job to job to job," the Hayden man said.

The cost of fuel already has him cutting back on daily expenses, he said.

"You can't get a soda every time you get gas, it's so expensive," Clapper said. "You can't go out and have fun every day, because you've got to pay for gas."

Arlene Hiatt, a Twin Lakes resident pumping gas at the Hayden station, said a jump in fuel costs would prevent her from traveling this summer.

"I can deal with them (prices) where they are now, but if it gets over $4, it's not good," she said. "I'll just stay home."

Paul Foreman said he keeps track of every gallon he drives, to save for his daily commute from Rathdrum to Coeur d'Alene.

"When I go somewhere, I take into consideration how much it costs," the construction worker said. "We have to plan to go to the store, to make sure we get everything so we don't have to go back."

It could be worse, Carlson pointed out.

"I count 40 states now that have gasoline above $3 a gallon, so you guys might be one of the few bright spots in the country," he said.

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