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Some Put the Brakes on Road Trip Plans

The U.S. says high gas costs won't crimp travel budgets, but a survey indicates the opposite.

May 18, 2006|From Reuters

Even $3-a-gallon gasoline won't throw a roadblock in the way of the family driving vacation this summer, the government's top energy forecasting agency said Wednesday. But an Internet survey found that high fuel prices were taking a toll on summer travel arrangements.

The federal Energy Information Administration gave its summer driving update on the same day a new poll showed that high pump prices were affecting plans of 72% of Americans taking a road trip this summer. The poll, by Internet map service MapQuest Inc., said nearly 1 in 10 respondents planned to cancel trips because of expensive gasoline.

The average price for regular unleaded gasoline jumped 3.8 cents last week to $2.95 a gallon, after declining the previous week for the first time in a month and a half.

Spot gasoline prices, which are close to wholesale prices, peaked at a level last week that indicated pump costs would keep rising, the agency said.

"However, a sharp decline in spot prices so far this week in various parts of the country may mean that the U.S. average retail price of regular gasoline may remain below $3 per gallon, absent further increases in spot prices," the Energy Department's analytical arm said in its weekly review of the oil market.

Although summer gasoline prices are forecast to be 34 cents higher, on average, than last year, fuel costs won't cut that much into the family vacation budget, the agency said.

At an estimated average summer price of $2.71 a gallon, the added gasoline costs for a 500-mile round-trip vacation in a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon would be just $8.50, the agency said.

Even if gasoline costs soar 75 cents higher than last year to a record $3.12 a gallon and vehicles get only 15 mpg, it said, the fuel bill would be just $25 more for a 500-mile round trip.

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