Local

Soaring gas prices will make Turkey Day travel tougher

Joe Hall pumps gas at the Citgo station at Cherry Road and Oakland Avenue on Friday. Gas prices are hovering close to the $3-per-gallon mark and are expected to rise above that during the holiday season. Top right, one customer bought $75 in gas at a Rock Hill station.
Joe Hall pumps gas at the Citgo station at Cherry Road and Oakland Avenue on Friday. Gas prices are hovering close to the $3-per-gallon mark and are expected to rise above that during the holiday season. Top right, one customer bought $75 in gas at a Rock Hill station.

Thanksgiving Day travelers likely will have at least one gripe: near-record high gas prices.

Fuel costs have climbed almost $1 per gallon since last Thanksgiving, coming close to the $3-plus prices seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The increase is affecting holiday budgets, forcing area residents to think twice about their trips.

"I am staying home and cooking a little turkey," said Norma Livengood of Rock Hill. Livengood filled up her Honda CRV at the Petro Express on Celanese Road Friday morning, but said she won't be going to North Carolina to see family this year. She'll only be taking one trip at Christmastime.

"Even around town, I try to take one trip for everything I need," she said.

'It's tearing me up'

But the high prices aren't stopping Claude Morrison. He filled up his Chevy Tahoe SUV on Friday for a trip to Charleston. At $2.89 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline -- a good deal in Rock Hill -- it took $56 to fill the tank.

"It's tearing me up," the father of three said. "I'm filling up my car and my wife's and son's cars every week. It's killing me."

In Rock Hill, some of the cheapest gas prices on Friday were found near Interstate 77. Many stations were selling gas for around $2.89 per gallon.

"That's still too high," quipped one customer at Petro Express.

Further into town, along Cherry Road, prices were pushing $3 a gallon.

At the BP gas station at the corner of Charlotte Avenue and Cherry Road, a $2.95 a gallon price tag limited Winthrop University student Kristine Proulx to only about three gallons of gas. But that $10 purchase for her Volkswagen Jetta would stretch just far enough to get her home to Charleston for Thanksgiving.

"As a college student, I don't have a job, so it's tough," she said.

Even with all the complaining about gas prices this Thanksgiving, Morrison doesn't expect the gas pump to stop him, or the rest of America, from enjoying the holidays.

"I'm still gonna eat turkey. And everybody's still gonna go shopping," he said. "They'll just pay for it later."

• Pennies add up: A 16 gallon tank of regular unleaded gas will cost about $13 more this Thanksgiving than it did last year. AAA reports the average price of gas in South Carolina this year is $2.96, compared to $2.09 at this time in 2006.

• Economics 101: The high price for crude oil is the reason for rising gas prices, said Liz Luke, a spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas. Luke said slow oil production pushed prices higher all summer and fall, without a big impact at the pump. But crude oil reached a record high of $96 a barrel earlier this month, and Friday's price was $93.59 per barrel.

"It's finally catching up with gas prices," she said. "It's simply supply and demand."

• On the road again: AAA predicts a 1.5 percent increase in travelers this holiday season, despite the high prices. About 37.8 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the travel club.

Luke said the high prices may affect travel for smaller events, but experts don't expect anyone to slow down for Thanksgiving. "You might stay home for Memorial Day and grill in the backyard, but even with high gas prices, you're going to go see grandma at Thanksgiving and eat apple pie," Luke said.

-- Adam O'Daniel

  Comments