June 13 (UPI) — Even though gas prices are eating up close to 10 percent of U.S. incomes, motor club AAA said Wednesday travel plans may be scaled back, but not canceled.
“Motorists can expect to spend at least $250 more on gas this season, but that won’t stop them from traveling,” AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano said in a statement.
The retail price for a gallon of gasoline is 58 cents higher than it was on this date last year, but has been moving slightly lower as the price of oil moves away from a yearly high above $80 per barrel. AAA lists a national average price of $2.91 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Casselano said it would take a national average price of $3.50 for most people to change summer travel plans significantly.
The type of gasoline made by U.S. refiners in the summer is more expensive to make because of the additional steps necessary to prevent harmful organic compounds from getting into the atmosphere during warmer weather.
“The higher gas prices may just encourage travelers to shorten their driving distance,” Casselano said.
Data released Tuesday by the U.S. Commerce Department show the consumer price index for gasoline is up 21.8 percent from last year. That’s compared with the 2.8 percent increase in the index for all consumer items for the 12 months ending in May, which is slightly more than wage growth.
AAA estimates gas expenses account for about 7 percent of average U.S. incomes, 1.5 percent more than last summer.
Higher crude oil prices caught the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump, who used Twitter in April to complain the market was overheated. Higher oil prices, and the subsequent rise in consumer fuel prices, could be eating into the tax breaks enacted by the Trump administration.
The International Monetary Fund said the global economy is growing, but could be under threat from protectionist trade policies like some of those Trump has endorsed. Wage increases, meanwhile, have been subpar and “many households have seen little or no benefit from growth,” the IMF said.
AAA said the average consumer was paying about $69 more per month on gasoline than they were this time last year.