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Economists: outlook for gas prices is grim

February 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
With gas prices shooting up, drivers are starting to shop around for the best of the worst prices.

At $3.95 for a gallon of regular gas, an Arco on Venice Boulevard and Crenshaw Boulevard was the cheapest in the Miracle Mile area. As a result, the station was packed Monday morning.

Meanwhile, a Shell station at Olympic Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue was the area's most expensive station found, where a gallon of regular posted at $4.93.

"Before it used to be $35, now it's $50 to fill up," said L.A. resident Fabiola Philidora. "That's a lot of money."

In the last week, prices have shot up 19 cents on average, which means drivers in the L.A. and Long Beach areas can expect to shell out about $4.07 for a gallon of regular. In Orange County and Ventura, prices are at $4.06. Drivers in the Inland Empire are averaging about $4.03.

"It's outrageous, it just takes your breath away," said L.A. resident Larry Carter. "But what can we do? We have to drive."

But with these prices, many are re-thinking their plans to be on the road any more than they have to be.

"I'm trying not to go out as much, trying to stay local as much as possible," said L.A. resident Karina Borja. "Only if I have to go. Only work and that's it."

Unfortunately, prices are expected to keep shooting up. Economists predict the national average could reach $4.25 by late April and nearly $5 for a gallon of regular by Memorial Day.

Demand in the U.S. is at the lowest it has been over the last 11 years. This comes as tensions in Iran continue to drive prices upward.

Increasing prices at the pump affect everything else. Most airlines are raising prices by $10 a ticket to deal with fuel costs and groceries are more expensive. It's now costing farmers more to run their tractors.

Experts say the best days to fill up are Mondays and Tuesdays, because prices tend to go up around the weekend.