EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 15, 2012

2012 will be record year for gas prices

Gas prices were so high that they set a record — Americans will spend more on gasoline in 2012 than in any other year. The yearly national average price will be around $3.63 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

It breaks a record that held the top spot for only one year -- 2011 had an average price of $3.51, or 72.6 cents per gallon higher than the bargain-basement days of 2010.

Ga prices theoretically could plummet so severely in the final weeks of 2012 that the record-setting average would no longer be record-setting. But prices would have to fall to $2.35 per gallon and stay there — and if that happens, chances are society has bigger problems than gas prices.

The high prices have driven more cars from the road and had a ripple effect on the convenience stores that use the lure of gasoline to sell chips and soft drinks.

In the most recent traffic volume trends report, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted year-over-year travel in September fell by 1.5 percent — or a loss of about 3.6 billion miles.

Fewer miles driven means fewer trips to the gas station, which is believed by experts to be a major factor behind a noticeable drop in convenience store traffic. In the third quarter, consumer traffic through convenience stores fell 2.1 percent, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.

Although consumers made fewer trips to the convenience store, they spent more when they were there — the average amount spent in a convenience store trip increased 2.5 percent during those same three months, and it wasn’t the nation’s run on Twinkies that was to blame.

“The $3 mark is where we see behavioral changes,” said David Portalatin, a convenience store analyst with the NPD Group. “We change our commuting patterns, and we may normalize around that new price point, but I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

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