EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 15, 2013

Gas prices soar in Mass., N.H.

Consumers should be prepared for continued increases

By Doug Ireland

---- — Rising gasoline prices are fueling a lot of frustration at the pumps this summer.

A 7-cent, per-gallon increase in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the last week is taking its toll on pocketbooks and wallets as political unrest in Egypt and declining fuel reserves spur prices hikes nationwide.

But there’s more bad news to come.

Prices are expected to rise an additional 10 to 15 cents in the next two weeks, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for Gasbuddy.com.

The statewide average price for a gallon of unleaded gas was $3.51 in New Hampshire on Friday and $3.56 in Massachusetts, according to Gasbuddy.com. It was $3.44 in the Granite State and $3.49 in the Bay State only a week earlier.

A price survey conducted July 8 also showed that gas prices in Massachusetts rose 3 cents per gallon the previous week, said Eleanor Baker, spokeswoman for AAA Merrimack Valley in Lawrence.

“We’re seeing the prices are volatile,” Baker said. “We’re expecting there is going to be unsettled pricing.”

While July is proving to be an expensive month for motorists, next month could be even worse.

CNNMoney reports prices nationwide could rise 30 cents in August alone, but DeHaan was hesitant to make the same prediction.

August happens to be the start of hurricane season, he said. A strong, damaging storm could wreak havoc on the nation’s petroleum production, sending fuel prices even higher, DeHaan said.

“If crude oil inventories continue to drop and we have a hurricane, it’s not going to be pretty,” he said. “The entire nation is going to feel the pain.”

The biggest factors spurring the current price increases are turmoil in Egypt and the large number of travelers who take to the roads in the summertime, DeHaan said.

“Demand is at its highest this time of year,” he said. “Unrest anywhere in the Middle East is very nerve-wracking. The fear is driving up the prices right now.”

While some local residents said they are so accustomed to price increases, they didn’t notice the difference, others filling up Friday in Londonderry weren’t happy.

But they were resigned to the fact that like the weather, some things are just beyond the average person’s control.

“It is what it is,” said Tom Bloch, 60, of Londonderry. “You just can’t control the increases.”

Bloch, who owns Morgan Exteriors home improvement company, said he spends close to $30,000 a year on gas for his business.

“It’s crazy,” said Maria Santitto, 25, of Derry, as she filled up her tank. “It’s going to go up to $4 a gallon again. It’s ridiculous.”

Santitto, who must buy premium gas gas for her Honda Civic SI, said she racks up quite a gas bill traveling to Lawrence to see her boyfriend every day.

“That’s where all my money goes — my gas tank,” she said.

Gisela Henshaw, 72, of Londonderry hadn’t noticed the recent price increase, but she wasn’t surprised.

“What can you do?” she said. “Everything else is up, too. It’s not a good thing.”

Brian Callahan, 28, said he was feeling the pain of soaring consumer prices. The Andover native said he recently moved to Derry because it’s a less expensive place to live. Gas prices in Derry are at least 5 cents cheaper per gallon, he said.