Gas prices in the Chicago area continue to soar

In this July 16, 2008 file photo, a motorist gets ready to pump gasoline into her minivan at the Mobil Station in Andover, Mass. A reader-submitted question about the cost of gas is being answered as part of an Associated Press Q&A column called "Ask AP." (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

March 2, 2011 3:14:23 PM PST
If you've recently filled up your car, you know we're paying a lot more at the gas pump.

Gasoline prices in Chicago have shot up past $4 at some stations for regular gas. Analysts say the growing unrest in Libya and other parts of the Middle East are helping drive up the price of crude oil. That has translated into higher prices at the pump.

The average price of gas in the U.S. has gone up 25 cents since mid-February.

Motorists in Chicago and the city's suburbs are getting smacked around by gas prices that seem to be going up every day, though Chicago drivers have to pay a little more for gas than in most suburbs because of a 6-cents-per-gallon tax.

All consumers are getting hit hard by the higher prices, but a fragile economy could be the real victim in all this.

Wednesday's sunny skies couldn't mask the cold wind coming off the lake -- nor the sting awaiting consumers heading for a fill up.

"It's ridiculous... I can't say why it is so much, but it's crazy," said David Tatosin.

Sheree Hammond, of South Chicago, put in just enough fuel at one gas station on the North Side of the city near her work because she'll fill up closer to home, or over the border in Indiana where it's cheaper.

To afford $4 per gallon gas, Hammond will forego other needs

"Shopping -- not grocery shopping ,but shopping for clothes and jewelry. I will just cut back in personal areas like that," said Hammond.

It's an effect of high gas prices even the White House is watching.

"The president is extremely aware of the impact that a spike in oil prices can have on gasoline prices and therefore on the wallets of average Americans," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Libya's civil unrest has meant nearly 1.3 million barrels of oil per day are not getting to market. Independent energy analyst Scott Benson says what the market is really wondering about is if and when Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, will make up for that shortfall.

Benson tracks gas prices in part as a contributor to, a user-driven repository of price information that shows $4 per gallon gasoline is on the verge of becoming a reality for the foreseeable future.

"Prices would drop dramatically if Saudi Arabia would say, 'Hey, we are going to supply another billion barrels a day,' " Benson said.

AAA says consumer confidence has been high, but now, motorists have to be vigilant to get the most out of what's in their tanks.

"Hop on the Metra or CTA if you're tired of paying these high gas prices. Carpool with a friend or a co-worker to work if that's a possibility," said AAA Chicago's Beth Mosher.

"We will be taking public transport more because of the high gas prices," said motorist Mike Ennis, who ABC7 found filling his tank in Evanston.

The last time gas prices started to jump like this there was an increase in the use of public transit.

Oil prices Wednesday settled at $102.23 a barrel, the first time it has settled at over $100 since February of 2008, In after-hours trading, oil went back under $100, but don't be looking for that kind of decrease to be reflected in the price at the pumps.