Gas prices continue upward trend

Blend, demand, cost of crude oil add up for customers at the pump

Summer travelers might want to load up the Prius rather than the pickup for their weekend road trips.

Gas prices have risen steadily in recent months and show no signs of letting up this summer, experts say.

“In April, we saw prices rise due to the switch to the summer blend of gasoline,” said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA Chicago. “Now, we’re seeing prices rise due to summer demand.”

Prices for a gallon of gas in McHenry County were typically within a dime of $4 on Monday. Most gas stations had priced fuel short of $4, but significantly above the national average of $3.65 a gallon. In Chicago, gas was $4.24 a gallon on average Monday, according to AAA.

But while the price is up from the winter months, experts maintain the rise isn’t out of the ordinary for this time of year.

The national average a year ago was two cents higher at $3.63 a gallon.

P.S. Sriraj, a research associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, pointed to the summer demand as a contributing factor for the rise but added that the price of crude oil has risen overseas.

The rising prices make an impact on drivers. For every 10 percent increase in gas prices, there’s a 2.6 percent drop in automobile use, Sriraj said.

It’s often commuters – not necessarily travelers – who adjust their plans, he added. And the biggest changes come at the $4 a gallon threshold. The national average hit that mark in 2008.

“It’s more of a psychological impact,” Sriraj said. “It seems to turn people away when they say, ‘Oh, gosh, it’s $4 a gallon.’ ”

Sriraj didn’t expect that number would be reached nationally this summer.

Higher prices haven’t impacted summer travel plans yet, according to a AAA study.

Three out of four Illinois residents plan to take a trip of at least 50 miles in the next three months, the study found.

Darrellyn Hanes, who owns the travel agency Worldwide Traveler in McHenry, said that those who aren’t fond of flying have increasingly looked to the rail system as an alternative.

“With the gas prices being so high, if they don’t want to fly they are looking at Amtrak,” Hanes said.

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