Gasoline prices are so volatile that experts are warning Nebraska drivers to brace for record highs at the pump.
Nebraskans soon could be paying an average of $4.18 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas, said Rose White of AAA Nebraska.
That would surpass records set in July 2008, when the average statewide price peaked at $4.10 a gallon, and Omahans were paying an average of $4.07 a gallon.
Drivers were feeling that price at the pump on Friday.
Chef Michael Tillotson, 27, lives near 30th and Dodge Streets and works at Champions Run Country Club near 132nd Street and West Maple Road.
“I have to budget 10 percent of my paycheck to pay for gas,” Tillotson said as he filled up his Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Nebraska’s average Friday was $3.88 a gallon — nearly 30 cents above the national average.
Omaha’s average was $3.94, or 16 cents higher than on Thursday, 29 cents more than a week ago and 56 cents more than a month ago.
Iowans on Friday were paying an average of $3.86 for a gallon of regular unleaded.
Prices could come close to Iowa’s July 2008 record of $4.03, but likely won’t rise above that mark, said Gail Weinholzer, a spokeswoman for AAA in Iowa.
White blamed the recent price hikes on maintenance work at several refineries that serve the Midwest. With three refineries offline, she said, production levels are at their lowest in 23 years.
“It’s very unusual that we’d have this concentration of refineries down for our area,’’ she said.
A refinery in El Dorado, Kan., just northeast of Wichita, will be down for 10 more days, White said. Officials at two major refineries in Joliet, Ill., and Whiting, Ind., are uncertain when they will return to operation, she said.
GasBuddy.com’s Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst, said earlier this week that a refinery in Tulsa, Okla., that also serves Midwestern states was in the middle of a major maintenance project.
DeHaan expressed confidence that drivers would see some relief within a couple of weeks. But don’t expect prices to drop dramatically.
Vacationing motorists probably will pay about $10 more on average each time they fill their gas tanks, White said.
Based on current projections, AAA is hoping for prices below $4 by the Fourth of July, White said.
“We’re hoping the prices won’t impact travel too much,’’ she said, “but we know they will impact everyone’s budget.’’
The price of travel keeps Omahan Richard Ruzicka, 42, from visiting family in Illinois. He said that at current prices it costs $70 to fill his gas tank, so he tries to spend $10 or $20 at a time.
“Going places out of town is just really hard right now,” he said.
World-Herald staff writer Robby Korth contributed to this report.
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