Fast-rising gas prices changing consumer, business habits locally

Fast-rising gas prices changing consumer, business habits locally


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on February 22, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 22 at 6:13 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Fast-rising gas prices are changing the way people live and run their businesses.

The average price of a gallon of regular in North Carolina jumped 44 cents over the last month, according to AAA Carolinas.  It’s currently $3.80 a gallon on average.

The last time gas prices rose this fast was in 2008 after two hurricanes hit the Gulf of Mexico, AAA Carolinas said.

"A punch in the stomach to realize everything I work hard for goes in the tank,” said Lee Heath, who owns Jewell’s Cleaning Service with his wife.

Their daily travels take them from Mooresville to Ballantyne and back. Rising gas prices are costing them an extra $300 a month.

"Oh my God, when is this going to stop,” Jewell Heath said at a gas station in Cornelius.

"We can't continue to spend 300 extra dollars on gas and still maintain a business,” Lee Heath said.

They've started carpooling, pretty much stopped investing in the company, but added a $5 charge for their trips.

"Got to hit you with gas,” he said.

The Heaths say raising their rates cost them four clients over the last month.  The impact at home is less money to spend on the family, including fewer dinners out.

AAA Carolinas says crude oil prices are up because the economy is doing better and there's market speculation that demand will continue to rise. Also, now is the time refineries shut down and switch over to producing summer blends.

For now, the Heaths have stopped doing smaller jobs because it doesn’t cover their expenses. 

"Just trying to survive like everyone else,” she said. 

If gas prices keep rising, they will have to cut off some of their business.

AAA Carolinas says the rapid rate increase has started to slow a bit and the closer gas gets to $4 a gallon, the more people will restrict their driving, which should lower prices.