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Thumbs down: Gas prices eating up more from budgets

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:45 PM

If you feel the pinch at the pump hurts a little more these days, you're right.

Despite all those fuel-efficient vehicles we drive, gasoline costs as a percentage of household income continue to rise.

In 2012, the average American household spent $2,912 on gasoline, almost 4 percent of income before taxes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is up from 3 percent in 2009, and with the exception of a spike in 2008, it is the highest percentage since the mid-1980s.

And we all know why -- the price.

While total gasoline consumption has fallen in recent years, the overall trend at the pump has been going the other way. Nationally, the average retail gasoline price rose 26 percent in 2011 and another 3 percent in 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration. Motorists got a little break this winter, with prices trending slightly under a year ago for a while, but that is changing.

The AAA Fuel Gauge shows that this week the national average for regular is $3.52, up from the $3.48 a year ago. Of course, it is even higher in West Virginia at $3.635 -- 20 cents higher than a month ago.

By now, consumers are accustomed to the seasonal surges, and take a "what can you do" attitude. But over the long haul, rising gasoline costs are going to make hybrid vehicles and alternative energy sources, such as natural gas, look more and more attractive.

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