PORTLAND (AP) – National gasoline prices are 23 cents per gallon higher than they were a year ago, but the impact has not been significant enough to keep drivers off the roads.

Demand for gas has remained high, as the hike in prices has not impacted travel plans during the busy summer months, according to Rene Letourneau of AAA in Portland.

“Even when the gas price is going up, it still only adds $20 or $30 to the budget of a vacation,” Letourneau said. “We haven’t seen that as being enough of a difference to make people stay at home.”

Gas prices have been rising rapidly all across the country, with the highest increases occurring on the west coast.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas in the United States reached $1.627 per gallon this week, according to a weekly survey by the federal Energy Information Administration.

In Portland, the average price of regular gas is now at $1.59 a gallon, up 19 cents from a year ago, according to AAA.

Among the factors being blamed for recent price hikes are rising crude oil prices and the massive blackout last week.

The blackout caused a temporary shutdown of seven refineries in the United States and Canada, slowing production at a time of high demand.

More important, though, is the rising price of crude oil. That price collapsed to $25 a barrel at the beginning of the war in Iraq, said John Felmy of American Petroleum Institute.

Since then, problems restarting Iraqi oil production, along with problems in Nigeria and Venezuela, have contributed to the price rising.

Crude oil is now at $32 a barrel, and gas prices are reflecting the increased cost.

Higher prices are tough on people like Mike Hartnett, a driver for Jetport Taxi, who goes through multiple tanks of gas every week.

“Any 10 cents for an increase, we feel it. Don’t think we don’t,” Hartnett said. “There’s nothing we can do about it, though.”

AP-ES-08-21-03 0215EDT

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