Gasoline prices in the Bay Area and Marin are already topping $4 per gallon, roughly one buck per gallon more than they were one year ago, when the recession brought fuel prices down to earth after a wallet-draining rise in 2008.
Matt Skryja, a spokesman with AAA in Northern California, said it’s not necessarily supply and demand that dictate whether oil prices rise, but what investors think the oil market is doing on a global scale.
Although the United States doesn’t get oil from Libya, Skryja said, the civil war there and general unrest in the Middle East is making investors nervous, which in turn is prompting Bay Area residents to pay a price at the pump for events half a world away.
"What are causing the gas prices to go up is what investors are doing,” Skryja said. “Investors are driving where gas prices are going."
So, what’s an average person to do to save money when gas prices rise? Plenty, but first the average consumer is going to have to go through a conversion of sorts. Ssaving money on gas is not just a matter of buying cheaper gas where you can find it. It’s a state of mind.
The way you drive, how much stuff you leave in your car or trunk – even giving your vehicle a couple minutes to warm up each morning – can significantly lower your fuel costs over time.
In other words, no matter what car you drive you can save on the money you pay for gas by transforming the way you think about your vehicle. Follow these seven steps from the AAA, and save your way to better peace of mind at the pump:
- Try not to make so many quick starts and stops unless you have to. You’re not in a race and it’s hard on your vehicle components as well as a waste of fuel. Try to anticipate ahead of time when traffic conditions will force you to slow or stop.
- Consolidate your trips and errands so you can cut down on the distance you travel. Comparison shop online, by phone or through newspaper ads.
- Keep a lookout for cheaper fuel prices, but remember it’s not worth driving across town to pay a few cents cheaper per gallon.
- Make sure you aren’t hauling unnecessary weight. Clean out your car. The more weight you carry, the more fuel you burn over time.
- Warm up a cold engine when you can. Racing a cold engine wastes fuel.
- Drive casual. Moving at moderate speeds on the road will save you fuel, but try not to drive too slow that you become a traffic hazard.
- Crack a window. Use your air conditioner on the really hot days and open your window for the others. Remember to use the recirculation setting, so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work so hard when it is on.
For more information and fuel saving tips read the attached PDF from the AAA. To find the cheapest gas near you, go to the Northern California AAA website and punch in your zip code under the "Drive Smart" box.