Like most these days, freshman Heath Frederick shakes his head with irritation when he pulls into a gas station.
“It angers me that the prices keep going up,” said Frederick, whose family lives in Crystal River, about 70 miles north of USF. “I carpool a lot more than I would have two years ago, and when possible, I use a different car because I have a truck, and it gets really bad gas mileage.”
With the average cost of a gallon of gas creeping toward $3 and oil prices setting records at $72 a barrel, Americans are emptying their wallets at an increasing rate just to fill their tanks.
According to a poll on Gasbuddy.com, a Web site devoted to helping people reduce the amount of money they spend on gas, 37 percent of Americans and Canadians were spending $100 to $200 on gas per month in 2005.
At Gaspricewatch.com, browsers can search the area in which they live to find the gas station with the lowest price. By typing in an intersection, zip code or specific gas station, a list will appear, ranking the lowest price first and giving the name and address of the station.
The site also lists tips to save fuel, such as buying gasoline during the coolest time of day (when it’s densest) and keeping windows closed at high speeds. Open windows cause drag, which could reduce mileage by 10 percent, the site states.
Gasbuddy.com also lists gas prices by cities. SuperGas on Mac Dill Air Force Base ranked the cheapest at $2.73. Citgo on Platt Street in South Tampa ranked the highest, at $2.99 a gallon.
The site also contains a chart measuring the average regular gas prices in America and Canada dating back to 2004. According to the chart, gas cost an average of $2 in America in May 2004.
Several Web sites have introduced a “fuel cost calculator” to help travelers gauge the cost of gas on trips they plan to take. RoadtripAmerica.com, Fueleconomy.gov and the AAA Web site all have their own version of the calculator.
The AAA fuel cost calculator at Fuelcostcalculator.com asks for travel destinations as well as the make, model and year of the automobile for the trip. According to the site, a roundtrip drive from Tampa to Buffalo in a 2000 Toyota Camry would cost $272.10.
That same trip driven in a 1999 Ford Expedition with four-wheel drive would cost $459.16.
When possible, director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research Ed Mierzejewski said carpooling is one of the most effective ways to save money on gas.
“Without too much inconvenience, a lot of us can find somebody to ride with,” Mierzejewski said. “A perfect example is me and my wife.”
Mierzejewski said that since his wife works at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and he works at the College of Engineering, they ride in together about once a week, on the days when they are doing something together after work.
“We found ourselves thinking, ‘You know, at $3 a gallon, it’s really not that inconvenient for us to come in together,'” Mierzejewski said.
This year’s hurricane season, which begins June 1, may be grounds for a further rise in price.
“It all depends on what happens,” Mierzejewski said. “If we have a situation like last year where we have major hurricanes damaging refinery facilities in Texas and Louisiana, then I would say it’s certainly going to affect gas prices.”
Oil prices soared after Hurricane Katrina destroyed parts of the Gulf Coast last year, and some scientists predict this hurricane season might be just as bad. If Katrina caused a jump in prices, the effects of another hurricane could be incredibly devastating.
“It’s really going to depend mostly on whether we have hurricane events that impact oil refining facilities,” Mierzejewski said. “It depends on the geography of where hurricanes make landfall.”
But regardless of the future, the situation has an affect on everyone.
“I don’t go home as much as I normally would, and I’ve got a baby sister I’d like to see,” Frederick said.
PUMPS ACROSS THE NATION. On Wednesday, the national average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline was about $2.80. In New York City, prices were as high as $3.39.
FUEL IN FLORIDA. The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was about $2.91 on Wednesday. The average in Tampa was about $2.85.
GAS-SAVING TIPS1. Avoid high speeds. Driving 62 mph vs. 75 mph will reduce fuel consumption by about 15 percent.
2. Do not accelerate or brake hard. By anticipating the traffic and applying slow steady acceleration and braking, fueleconomy may increase by as much as 20 percent.
3. Use air conditioning sparingly. When the air conditioner is on it puts extra load on the engine forcing more fuel to be used by about 20 percent.