As gasoline prices spike, expect more pain at the pump

Rising gasoline prices have crude producers, futures market traders and oil investors in the black and Lowcountry motorists seeing red.

"I keep reading how much better the economy is doing, but it's not getting a whole lot better for me or anyone I know," said Steve Walthen of Beaufort, filling up Saturday at a Port Royal gas station. "It was kind of sneaky. Gas just started creeping up in price and now we're looking at $3 a gallon again."

The average national price of a gallon of regular gasoline hit $2.70 on Thursday, according to AAA. The price of gasoline is up 67 percent from this time last year and at its highest level since October 2008.

A survey of 10 Beaufort-area gas stations Saturday found prices between $2.59 and $2.71 for a gallon of regular gasoline. A survey of eight stations on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton on the same day found prices between $2.58 and $2.69 for a gallon of regular gasoline.

Across South Carolina, gas prices are the highest they've been in 15 months, according to AAA Carolinas.

Prices in South Carolina are fifth-lowest in the nation and still well below prices in Alaska, California and Hawaii, where motorists are already paying more than $3 per gallon.

Economic experts say gasoline prices are rising because the price of oil, like all commodities, has been driven up by increased global demand and a weakened U.S. dollar.

Wanda Frazier of Yemassee said she is not looking forward to wincing every time she fills up as she did in 2008.

"I wish I could do without it," Frazier said. "It's a necessity. Complaining about the price of gas is a lot like complaining about the weather. It is what it is and I guess we just have to roll with it. It doesn't mean I have to like it and trust me, I don't."

Skyrocketing gas prices could spell big trouble for a U.S. economy struggling to recover after a nearly two-year recession.

Every 10-cent hike in gas prices equated to an additional $14 billion a year out of consumers' pockets, Miller Tabak equity strategist Peter Boockvar wrote in a research note on Thursday.

Americans are spending $1 billion per day on gas.