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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Gas prices expected to rise after February lull

While nationwide gas prices may drop by 10 to 20 cents a gallon in the next two weeks, analysts estimate that they could rise again to more than $3.50 by June.

Prices could bottom out at about $2.86 and rise to about $3.75 in Florida, said Gregg Laskoski, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.

Gas prices usually decrease in February, Laskoski said, and this year the drop is magnified by a large supply of oil, a slow economy and a low employment rate.

The country's gasoline and crude oil supply is currently the highest it has been in 14 years, he said.

But even the large supply of oil could be used up in a matter of weeks, Laskoski said. A slow economic period means that less fuel is being used to produce and distribute goods and services and get employees to work.

The low demand and high supply will cause the gas prices to drop.

But after the February dip, Laskoski said he expects prices to start rising in March, reaching $3.75 a gallon by June. Laskoski called government estimates of $3.50 a gallon "conservative."

In Georgia in 2007, he said, gas prices rose by $1.06 between February and June. A similar increase in Florida could result in prices over $4, he said.

Summer prices increase because of more car travel starting Memorial Day weekend and government-required "summer-blended fuel."

The summer-blended fuel, which is used between May 1 and Sept. 30, is cleaner burning than winter-blended fuel and requires more expensive additives, Laskoski said. Gas prices could be even higher in Florida, where they tend to be about 6 cents above the national average, he said.

In Alachua County, gas is also taxed by 12 cents a gallon, which goes to the county transportation budget, Alachua County spokesman Mark Sexton said. The tax is the highest allowed by Florida law. In 2007, 14 Florida counties charged the 12-cent maximum, Sexton said.

Nils Swanson, a UF biology sophomore, said the February price drop wouldn't affect him.

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"I would notice, but I don't think I would buy more gas," Swanson said.

He said he already rides the bus to school, but would consider car pooling to other places if gas cost more than $5 a gallon.

Stephen Tan, a UF engineering graduate student, said he thought gas prices were already too high. Tan said if prices increased this summer, he would probably ride the bus or his bike more often.

"I'm a student," he said. "I can't pay that much."

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