Friday, May 25, 2007

Holiday travel expected to increase despite gas prices

166,000 Idahoans expected to travel

Express Staff Writer

About 166,000 Idahoans will hit the road this Memorial Day weekend—about 15,000 more than did last year, AAA Idaho estimates.

The estimate is based on the state's population increase and a survey that interviewed 2,000 people nationwide, said Dave Carlson, AAA Idaho director of public and government affairs.

"The difference this year is that motorists will put on their consumer hats—traveling closer to home and cutting corners with the lodging and food budgets along the way," Carlson said.

That's because the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States is up 34 cents in the past month to $3.20, and 31 cents higher than a year ago when it was $2.89, the AAA stated in a press release.

Idaho's average price of $3.24 is 19th highest in the country, nowhere near the $3.45 average in California, but well above the lowest price of $2.94 in New Jersey.

Tight gasoline inventories, signaling the inability by U.S. refineries to produce enough gas to meet demand, are the main culprit in this year's high prices, the AAA stated.

Carlson said the price variations by state are due to different levels of competition depending on which pipelines serve which markets, and on the production levels of refineries in different areas.

Despite the higher prices, the AAA stated, more people will travel throughout the country this year than did over Memorial Day weekend last year. The organization estimates that over 38 million people will be on the move, 84 percent of them by car, 11 percent by plane and 5 percent by rail or bus.

The AAA offered several tips for how drivers can improve fuel economy:

· Slow down. The faster a vehicle travels, the more gas it consumes.

· Check air and fuel filters twice a year. Dirty filters increase fuel use.

· Inflate tires according to manufacturers' specifications. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and can increase fuel use by as much as 2 percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.

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