Higher gas prices likely as crude oil prices surge

April 8, 2011 3:12:10 PM PDT
A new increase in crude oil prices is expected to push prices at the gas pump even higher. The cost of some grades has already topped $4 a gallon in the Chicago area. Some experts warn that trend could spread throughout the nation this summer.

Oil prices surged above $112 a barrel Friday. Analysts say a continued surge could damage the U.S. economy.

For pizza delivery driver Jerry Crowley, rising gas prices are a source of heartburn.

"Take a train, take a bus, can't do that. Waiting for the stop's not going to work," said Crowley.

Crowley logs as many as 600 miles a week and is paying about $100 more per month compared to this time last year.

"I mean, I try not to floor it, try to conserve as much as you can, little things, getting sparkplugs earlier, changing the oil early to get better gas mileage," Crowley said.

In Chicago, the average price for regular unleaded is $3.93 a gallon. That's up nearly 18 cents since last week and a whopping 89 cents compared to this same week last year.

"We haven't seen these steep increases since Hurricane Katrina," said AAA Chicago spokesperson Beth Mosher.

The spike is due, in part, to growing unrest in the Middle East.

And, with prices traditionally rising 5 to 10 percent during summer, could we be headed for $5 a gallon gas?

"We think $5 gas is really presumptuous to be talking about at this point in time," said Mosher. "We don't think it's going to hit $5 anytime soon."

But not everyone agrees.

Don Hillebrand is transportation research director at Argonne National Laboratory near Darien.

"I'm absolutely not a betting man, but I give it way better than 50 percent chance we're going to see $5 a gallon," said Hillebrand.

For many drivers that would be the tipping point.

"It'll make me ride a bicycle," said driver Arturo Rodriguez.

"I may have to park my car, sell it or something," said motorist Daniel Huertas.

As for Crowley, he's glad his is a four-cylinder car.

"Even worse for truck drivers, I can only imagine. They get really bad gas mileage, so they're losing a lot of money I'm sure," said Crowley.