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Fast Rising Gas Prices Could Hurt Recovering Economy

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Just ask anyone about the rising price of fuel—and the frustration quickly surfaces.

“I don’t know how people are going to live with gas prices going up as high as it’s going!” exclaimed June Cook in Dallas. “Got to go to work, got to make bills, got to pay bills…” Cook says she is already skimping on some bills to make up the difference that her gas bills are taking out her budget.

Gasoline prices around North Texas on Wednesday were hovering around $3.71 a gallon for regular unleaded. But, some commuters are already paying more.

“Like yesterday, I put $4.10 in my car for a gallon of gas,” says Britni Lusk. “That’s just too much money.” Lusk says keeping fuel in her car can be depressing—and gasoline has become another “big bill.”

Economists say a number of factors are fueling the late winter price hikes. Gasoline prices are seasonal, and are typically higher in the first months of the year in anticipation of summer demand; refineries are already switching to what’s called the ‘summer blend’ gasoline, federally mandated to help reduce pollution, and then there’s crude oil prices: up some 10 percent.”

“It’s huge,” says Rod Collins, owner of Bulldog Mobil Billboards. Collins makes a living keeping his trucks moving, laden with paid advertisements. But, that takes gasoline—lots of it.

“When gasoline prices go up, we have to watch every single penny and I have to raise my prices when I can’t be profitable without raising my prices, and I lose some jobs from time to time because of it.”

So, is there any relief any sight?

“The truth is, we don’t know,” says Bruce Bullock, Director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU’s Cox School of Business. But, Bullock adds that prices may peak when consumers decide they’ve had enough.

“In past years, once gasoline prices hit $4 in Texas, people just stopped driving in terms of their leisure type driving…and that put a lot of downward pressure on prices.”

Experts say the high fuel prices aren’t just frustrating—the economic recovery could be impacted as well.

“High gas prices undoubtedly will hurt that recovery. It’s taking money out of people’s pockets that would normally be spent in stores, or on vacations.”

But, June Cook says at the rate gasoline prices are rising—all she’ll be taking is “the bus.”

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