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Pain at the pump

by Brian Walker
| December 16, 2010 8:00 PM

Residents have another cost to contend with heading into Christmas.

The gas price at some local stations is above the $3 mark.

"You have to go back to mid-October 2008 when the market was in a free fall to see prices above $3," said Dave Carlson, AAA spokesman. "In July of that year, Coeur d'Alene had prices that reached about $4.07."

Prices are averaging $3.01 in Coeur d'Alene this week, although some stations are holding under $3, while the average price in Post Falls is $3.06.

The latest climb continues an upward movement. Prices in Coeur d'Alene were $2.37 a year ago, $2.81 six months ago and $2.90 a month ago.

"Regionally, North Idaho is a recipient of some of the spillover in higher gas prices coming out of Washington, where the average price is $3.17," Carlson said.

Meanwhile, the average price in Idaho is $2.93 and the country $2.98.

Post Falls' Shelly Harris, who filled up in that city on Wednesday, said the higher prices are putting a pinch on her, especially since she's not done spending on Christmas.

"Couldn't have they waited until the new year to raise prices?" she said. "This will cause me to be cautious through the holidays."

Others, like Coeur d'Alene's Dick Long, who was fueling up at a Coeur d'Alene station, aren't as concerned.

"Gas prices will be what they will be," Long said. "I'm not going to worry too much about things I can't control. I try to watch my spending anyway, then let the rest of the chips fall where they may."

Higher crude oil prices - above $87 a barrel and the highest since October 2008 - are still having impacts on gas prices nationwide, helping push U.S prices up 9 cents in the past month, Carlson said.

He doesn't expect a dropoff in prices locally.

"The near-term effect in most parts of the country could be for prices to hold where they are for now, but some of the higher prices in North Idaho will probably remain above the $3 mark for a couple of weeks," Carlson said.

AAA this week projected that 92.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holidays, an increase of 3.1 percent from the 89.5 million who traveled a year ago.

Travel from Idaho and other Mountain region states is expected to increase 2.4 percent, the smallest increase of all regions.

"This marks the fifth consecutive holiday period this year in which we have predicted a year-to-year increase in the number of travelers," Carlson said.

After a challenging 2009, Carlson said modestly improved economic conditions and pent-up demand have resulted in greater numbers of people willing to travel.

"Underperforming unemployment numbers are tempering some of the optimism in the bigger economy," Carlson said. "But other economic drivers, including household net worth, disposable income and asset prices are showing slow, steady improvements."

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