Families are devoting more of their money to gas these days than they have in most of the past 30 years, according to new estimates in a U.S. energy report.
The average American household spent $2,912 — or about 4 percent of its gross income — on gas in 2012, according to estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This is a bigger drain on the family budget than at any time in the past three decades except 2008, when the gas grab was about the same.
What may be frustrating for some to hear is that while gas consumption has gone down in recent years, the budget burden has only gotten worse as gas prices have increased.
Back in the early 1980s, families were spending more than 5 percent of their income on gas but traveling much less than we do today. Since then, fuel efficiency has increased significantly, making it cost less per mile for us to get where we're going. However, while U.S. gas consumption was at its lowest level in 10 years in 2011, average gas prices increased that year by 26.1 percent and then again by 3.3 percent last year, according to the EIA.
As of today (Feb. 11), the average gas price in the Oakland metropolitan area was $3.96 per gallon for unleaded regular — up a penny from yesterday, 11 cents from a week ago and a whopping 38 cents from one month ago, according to Cynthia Harris, a spokesperson for AAA Northern California.
Harris said the increase is due mostly to the change from winter to summer gas formulations.
Warm-season gas contains several additives to keep it from evaporating in the heat, so it's more expensive to produce, Harris said. Refineries also have scheduled shutdowns about this time of year to implement the change, she said.
Harris said gas prices dropped during the period from just before Christmas to mid-January before starting their recent climb.
Is gas a big part of your family's budget? Do you have tips to share on saving gas? Tell us in the comments section below.