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Gas prices on way up
Josh Taylor has filled up his GMC pickup truck four times since Friday and has spent nearly $600 on gasoline this month.

He could be in for a wait if he's looking for relief at the gas pump.

Gasoline prices have spiked 15 cents from a week ago, with an average price in Georgia of $3.80 for a gallon of regular. That's up 40 cents from a month ago. Prices in Atlanta Wednesday were inching close to the $4 per gallon mark.

"It's bad. Most of the time I stay close to town, because I can't afford to go anywhere," Taylor said, adding that he lives in Brunswick and drives to St. Simons Island for work.

When Tropical Storm Isaac took aim at the Gulf Coast, major refineries shut down operations before its eventual development into a hurricane. Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday after making landfall on the Louisiana coast.

"In terms of the impact of Isaac, it has led to the higher prices in the Southeast region," said Jessica Brady, spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South.

It's too early to tell when prices might begin to fall, Brady said. That won't be known until workers are able to return to oil platforms and assess any damage that may have occurred and determine when production can resume.

The increase comes right at the front door of what is traditionally the last hurrah of summer - Labor Day weekend.

"We do know that (prices) are very likely to increase into the (Labor Day) weekend, but what we don't know is how long they'll increase and how high they'll increase," Brady said.

Taylor says he understands that the price he paid at the pump Wednesday reflects a higher wholesale price, but he isn't sure why a hurricane that is hundreds of miles away is impacting prices in Glynn County.

"Sometimes I get to work at 6 a.m. and check the prices, and it's $3.59 (per gallon). When I get off at 2 p.m. it's $3.69 or $3.75," Taylor said.

"We're not getting the hurricane, so I don't understand why we have to pay higher prices, but I know there's shipping involved and other factors."

Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, says retailers have little control over prices.

"A lot of times when people see the price on the street go up, what they don't see is how much the cost to the person selling the gas went up," Tudor said.

Wholesale prices and speculation also impact prices. A rise in prices early this week, for example, was caused because of speculation in the oil commodities market, Tudor said.

When the product becomes more expensive, small business owners must pass it along to customers, even though higher prices at the pump can actually hurt business, Tudor said.

"It really hurts inside (store) sales. If you're having to spend more to fill up your car, you're going to have less money in your pocket to buy the things inside the store, and frankly that's where we make most of our money," Tudor said.

Credit card customers, who are able at most places to pay at the pump, cost retailers more. The convenience of not having to go inside the store and wait in line to pay for gas in advance makes it a popular method of payment among motorists.

"Up to about 70 percent of people buy with a credit card," he said. "Retailers are paying 2 to 3 percent (to credit card companies), so if the price of gas goes up, the amount of money we actually have to pay to the credit card companies goes up."

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