DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas resident Mark Fuqua just returned from working out of state for one month, where he didn't have to worry about filling his 1993 Jeep up once.
An empty tank welcomed him home, and he was soon off to the gas station, where he found that gas prices had soared to nearly $3.50 a gallon while he was away.
"I've never seen increases this fast," he said. "It's amazing."
Fuqua was already planning to change his driving habits.
"Go to grocery stores that are closer. Go to cleaners that are closer and so on, so I'm not driving as far as I used to," he said.
A new survey of 2,100 Triple-A members nationwide shows Fuqua isn't alone. Twenty-two percent said they began changing the way they drove when gas hit $3.00 a gallon. Another 25 percent said their magic number is $3.50 a gallon, and 24 percent said they'll drive differently when it's $4.00 for a gallon.
But Professor Mike Davis at SMU's Cox Business School is skeptical of the study.
"I think a lot of people will say they're going to change, but I think a lot of people will say, 'I've done this before,'" he said.
Unlike the last time gas prices spiked a few years ago, Davis said there's a concern this time that gas prices won't drop and will stay high for an extended period of time.
"That's the big fear, that's what happening, a rise to $3.50, $3.60," he said. "If it goes to $4, that'll be bad. If it stays at $4, that'll be really bad."
Marc Cardenas isn't waiting for gas to hit $4 a gallon. He just bought a scooter for $1,500. He said he's parked his car and will drive that instead.
"I don't live far from work, so I figured I'll just be driving back and forth," Cardenas said.
As for Fuqua? It took $70 to fill his Jeep up.
"No, no, no, I don't like this at all," he said.
Davis, like other economists, said prices at the pump may stay higher than what residents are used to. Not because of what's happening in the Middle East, but because of the Federal Reserve Bank.
Davis said the Fed's monetary policy of continued low interest rates may trigger inflation. Not just for oil, but for food and other commodities as well.
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