CBSN

Pain At The Pump: $2 And More

A Shell gas station owner put up this sign again in Menlo Park, Calif., Monday, May 17, 2004 as gas prices raise in the area. The owner put up the sign last year when prices climbed. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP
The average retail price of gasoline nationwide is now above $2.00 for the first time.

The Energy Department reports Americans paid an average of about $2.01 for a gallon of regular unleaded last week, an increase of seven cents from the previous week.

Despite blaming the Democrats, the White House appears to have no plan to attack soaring gas prices, other than to "stay in contact" with oil-producing nations, reports CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.

Prices are the highest on the West Coast, averaging $2.24 a gallon.

"I'm about to croak."

"That's terrible."

"That's too high."

"I think we're just being gouged."

...were the reactions from a sampling of some Southern California motorists approached by CBS News.

Gas prices went up the most in New England, where the price of regular rose ten cents, to about $2.10.

The high prices are already cutting into the bottom line for those who drive for a living, like truck and taxi drivers, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzalez.

Normally I work 8 hours," said taxi driver Jacob Fayerman. "Now I have to work 11-12 hours."

"That kid who delivers your pizza to you, it's probably worth tipping him another dollar to compensate him for the extra gas he's burning through to get you your pizza," Justin McNaull of the American Automobile Association told CBS News.

Some people are just driving less.

"I'm a student, so I don't have $50 to spend a week on gas, so I'm trying to walk as much as I can," said Melanie Seltzer.

"I have cut back drastically and I'm down to like three tanks a month which I feel very fortunate for," a Spokane motorist told CBS News Correspondent Stephan Kaufman. "I don't run to the store for a gallon of milk or anything like that. I plan my trips and if I run out I do without for a day or two."

Analysts blame bottlenecks at U.S. refineries, heavy speculative investment in oil futures and concerns about security in the Middle East for adding fuel to the soaring prices.

"I'm not really understanding why it continues to go up, and it seems political, it's goofy," a man at a gas station in Spokane said.

"I think it's a scam," said another. "I don't think the war has affected the price that it should go up that much, I don't think it's affected the oil production."

"I think we ought to start drilling for our own oil," said a third. "To heck with the environmental people."

The high prices may hurt the economy.

"Every dollar that we're spending putting gas in our car is a dollar that we're not putting somewhere else in the economy," said McNaull. "There really is sort of a taxing effect on the economy of having higher energy prices."

The travel and tourism industry may be particular hard hit: With still higher gas prices predicted, many Americans may decide not to hit the road this summer.