Fresno gas prices surge to 2008 levels

FRESNO, Calif.

Customers are quickly moving to the lowest price stations. Business at this Shell Station at Shaw and Clovis was slow, but the pumps at the Arco station down the street where prices were 12 cents a gallon lower were busy.

Online services are helping consumers find the best deals, but even today's cheapest gas is no bargain.

Cindy Wyman of Clovis told us, "I drive all over town so it's kind of hard to fork out $80 every time."

While prices have been rising slowly for the past six months, the sudden surge is blamed on instability in the Middle East, especially the violent turmoil in Libya. Experts estimate the trouble has reduced worldwide supply by less than a million barrels of oil per day ... but it's been enough to rattle markets and send oil over $100 a barrel.

Fresno State University Economics Professor Sean Alley told Action News, "Even the specter of rising gas prices and shortages anywhere in the world show up the next day, the same afternoon at the pumps all over the world."

Alley says the expectation of higher prices, leads to higher prices. So if oil companies figure they'll get $5 a gallon this summer, they'll limit supplies now which will cause an immediate increase. The result is, the cost of everything goes up, and consumers are forced to cut back on other spending.

Wayne Hutchinson looks at this way, "It will take a big bite. You'll have to cut out different things in your life jus so you can afford to put gas in your cars so you can go out and make a living."

The current gas price hikes are reminiscent of the price spikes of 2008. Gas prices in February of 2008 were like now, rising toward $4 a gallon. They peaked near $5 in June. That hike sparked an increase in small car sales and the use of public transportation.

Cindy Wyman thinks similar changes may be coming in reaction to high gas prices. "I think they are ridiculous. Ready to go to a bicycle." She said.

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