Nightly News | March 07, 2011
>>> good evening. if you bought gas this weekend, if you filled up today, if you're a commuter, you need gas this week, you will feel this increase in gas prices nationwide. everyone will, and it affects the prices of almost everything else. of course it's being driven by oil prices , up again toy. oil closed above $105 a barrel now. the average price of gas nationwide, that unleaded regular, $3.51 a gallon. that's average, but it's no comfort if where you live y're paying more. it's a big story across the country. we have a team covering it, beginning with nbc's tom costello on why even wit all that's going on these prices are so high. tom, good evening.
>> reporter: hi, brian. there's talk of $3.75 to $4 a gallon by memorial day , and real concern that that could take a bite out of family budgets and the economy. at $3.51 a gallon, the nation's collective groan at the gas pump seems to have hit a crescendo.
>> really frustrated.
>> reporter: gas prices follow oil. since hitting $75 a barrel last august, oil prices have climbed to over $105 today, up 40% since august, up 19% in just three weeks.
>> i think you're seeing a tremendous amount of speculation in this market.
>> reporter: the running debate on cnbc, how much of this is due solely to market speculation. meanwhile, the white house says it's considering whether to tap the strategic petroleum reserve as a way of pushing gas prices lower. the reserves hold 727 million barrels of oil . with u.s. consumption at 20 million barrels a day, it's 36 days worth of supplies meant for national emergencies, not price wings.
>> tapping it when there's price pressure but no shortage is like giving sugar to people that are hungry. it doesn't help them. it may satiate them for a moment but it doesn't help them.
>> reporter: with gas prices up 40 cents in a month, it's quickly reaching a point where the pain at the pump could eat into home savings and a fragile economy.
>> the risk is if gas prices move to $4 or even higher, we will see real softening in the economy. the unemployment rate will begin to drift higher.
>> reporter: anwhile, in charlotte, north carolina , the tipping point may have already come for some drivers. sales at a scooter store are up 200% over last year.
>> if you don't have a long commute, if you don't have to go on the highway, it's a great solution for a lot of people.
>> reporter: $4 to fill it up and 120 miles before a refill. if gas prices were to freeze where they are right now, the average american family would still be paying $450 more per year in fuel costs than at this point a year ago. but of course, brian, gas prices are still moving higher. back to you.
>> tom costello starting us off. tom, thanks. > now to