Video: Gas prices soar

NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/24/2004 9:17:39 PM ET 2004-02-25T02:17:39

Marisa Davis is doing something she’s learned to dread — filling up her SUV in Los Angeles, “I filled up about a week ago and I drove it until it was empty.”

Overnight the price of a gallon of gas leapt 8 cents to well above the $2 mark.  And, nationwide, it’s sticker shock. Prices are up 18 cents since the first of the year.

The states hit the hardest include: California, where a gallon of regular, on average, costs $2.05; then Nevada, at $1.94; followed by New York, paying about $1.80.

Why?  Analysts say the consumer is being hit with a double whammy — a ten percent cut in OPEC production has reduced supply and an especially chilly winter has increased demand.

And a low U.S. dollar mean’s Americans are digging deeper for imported fuel.

“You’re pretty much left to drive around and look at the big numbers on the signs and swallow hard and pay it,” according to Justin McNaull of the American Automobile Association.

But paying it is hitting small businesses hard, from the neighborhood pizza joint to the taxi driver to Ally’s Posy Patch, a Chicago florist where 98 percent of business is delivery.  “We’ll eventually have to pass it on to the consumer,” said Matt Schwader.

And it’s not just gasoline. Natural gas up over 12 percent from last year, and Laura Myers heating bill is heating up. “When it’s more than a $100 more than you expect, it’s shocking.”

But for motorists, the biggest shock may come this summer, when vacationers are expected to take more than 275 million road trips — and take a hit at the pumps.

“There are some areas in this country that I really believe could be paying $3-a-gallon for gasoline,” said Phil Flynn of Alaron Trading.

And that has Marisa Davis considering a fix: trading in her gas guzzler for the higher mileage and lower cost of a hybrid car.

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