Higher Gas Prices Poised To Drive Costs Up On Consumer Goods

April 27, 2011
Semi trailer

Semi trailer

Gas prices are a part of our daily conversation about vehicle choice—and a source of concern, recently, as pump prices have been trending upward at a rapid rate.

But gas prices affect us in many ways other than just filling up the family vehicle. Rising gasoline and diesel costs are now poised to raise prices on consumer goods—at a time when the economy was just starting to recover.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the national-average price of a gallon of gasoline is at about $3.88—or about 9 cents higher than two weeks ago. Highway diesel is also way up, to a $4.09 national average, which is the highest since July 2008 levels (up to $4.76 a gallon then). Both gasoline and diesel are running a dollar or more higher than this time last year.

And even if you're a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight driver, you'll soon start feeling the impact, as shippers are expected to raise fuel fees again, affecting prices on nearly all consumer goods.

Every mode of shipping, from train lines to airlines, interstate trucking companies to local delivery services, are looking to compensate for higher fuel prices.

The last very pronounced time that happened—in mid 2008—it had a ripple effect through the economy, and some say that it worsened the hit of the economic collapse of late 2008.

Last month, Nielsen Wire helped summarize the predictions of a wide range of economists, and did the math on gas prices—figuring that if gas prices were to raise just 50 cents a gallon, it would cost the typical household $52.50. What this analysis didn't even include, though, were all the other aspects of the economy and consumer behavior that fuel prices can affect.

When fuel prices surge, some shipments are likely to move to trains, which take somewhat less energy. But even train companies are feeling the affects. Union Pacific this past week said that it had paid 33 percent more for fuel during the first period of 2011 versus the same period in 2010.

Some trucking companies have already enforced tighter rules about idling, to help save fuel. But based on the trends, as well as the pinched trucking industry, more price hikes on anything shipping-related—including vehicle destination fees—can be expected, soon.

[New York Times]

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