A gallon of regular, the cheapest grade of gasoline, was selling for $3.29 Wednesday afternoon at a Texaco Food Mart on South University Drive in Fort Worth, while midgrade fuel was fetching $3.43 and premium $3.57.
As she pumped midgrade fuel into her Lexus, TCU student Liz Rayle was somewhat resigned to the fact that pump prices are soaring in the wake of exploding oil prices, the result of mounting turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East.
"I'm indifferent. There's not much I can do," Rayle said with a shrug. "I think the prices might be high, but it won't stop people from buying gas."
Gasoline prices have been making big jumps in recent days, and energy analysts expect further increases.
The average price for a gallon of regular in Fort Worth-Arlington shot to $3.07, an increase of 6 cents overnight and 2 cents higher than Texas' statewide average, according to a report Wednesday by auto club AAA, Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. The average U.S. price was $3.19.
Average prices for other grades locally were $3.21 for midgrade, $3.35 for premium and $3.45 for diesel.
Prices of $3.05 to $3.15 a gallon for regular are suddenly commonplace in Tarrant County, the Star-Telegram found Wednesday in an informal survey of station prices.
Rising prices are already pinching some motorists' pocketbooks, with a gallon of regular costing 56 cents more than a year ago.
"It's killing me," said Forrest Frazier of Fort Worth, who was pumping $3.08-a-gallon regular into his brawny 2003 GMC Yukon XL at a RaceTrac off Interstate 35W in south Fort Worth.
Frazier said he gets only 8 miles per gallon but needs the vehicle for his work as a subcontractor doing inspections and maintenance at natural gas well sites. The spacious truck allows him to carry tools and replacement parts for well-site storage tanks, he said.
Frazier, who spent an even $30 for gas Wednesday, winced when he saw that his outlay had purchased only 9.71 gallons.
"I hope it stays below $3.50, or I'll have to quit," he said of his job, which requires him to rack up considerable mileage.
Rising oil prices spawn higher wholesale fuel prices, which prompt gasoline retailers to raise pump prices "because they've got no other choice," said Dan Ronan, a spokesman for AAA Texas/New Mexico.
"If their prices go up 10 cents a gallon ... they've got to pass it on to customers," Ronan said.
With uprisings first in Egypt and then Libya, as well as other nations in the region, the extent to which gas prices continue to rise is "going to depend on what happens in the Middle East," Ronan said.
Some motorists say they have no choice but to keep buying gas, even if it soars to $4 or $5 a gallon.
Pablo Calderon of Fort Worth, an administrator with United Way of Tarrant County, was filling up his 2005 Honda CR-V on Wednesday in south Fort Worth. He said his car gets a respectable 24 to 25 mpg but doesn't see cutting back appreciably on driving even if gas prices continue heading north.
"I don't make a lot of unnecessary trips," he said.
Jack Z. Smith, 817-390-7724