Record gas prices to barrel over Bay 

Gas prices in the Bay Area are approaching record highs and are expected to spike at least 20 cents per gallon in the next two months, according to a report released by AAA on Tuesday.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in San Francisco was $3.53 on Tuesday, an increase of more than 50 cents over the last two months, according to the report.

The statewide average is currently at $3.39, which is 10 cents less than the record high set on May 9. AAA attributes the price spike to the record-high crude oil price, which reached $98.62 last week.

"The dramatic increase in crude oil prices is one of the main forces that’s been driving up gas prices," said Sean Comey of AAA. "If it continues to trade in the 90s, we wouldn’t expect any relief any time soon."

According to the report, the U.S. Department of Energy predicts gasoline prices may climb an additional 20 cents by December.

"The current cycle of increases has not run its course — it takes a while for the effects of rising raw material costs to trickle down to the consumer," Comey said. "The really troubling element of that is there is no supply problem right now — this is based on potential problems that haven’t actually happened yet."

In the Bay Area, the current gas price is 42 cents higher than the national average.

"I think I might be starting to ride a bike to work," San Francisco resident Nick Riley said while filling up his 14-mpg Toyota 4Runner at a Shell station on 19th Avenue and Taraval Street in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Yet the gas price spike is not bad for everyone. Hybrid car salesmen in the Bay Area have been benefiting from the increase.

"The amount of interest in our hybrids doubled over the last month," said Russ Mobley, general sales manager for Toyota on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. "I used to have one hybrid Camry on the showroom floor, but now there are four hybrids and the sales are up 20-30 percent for the last month."

Mobley said he has seen a similar surge over the summer and a year ago when gas prices surged.

"Anytime gas gets in the mid-$3 range, people start defending their wallets," he said.

According to a study by the Oil Price Information Service, the percentage of median income spent on gasoline has doubled in the last five years.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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