Next stop - $4 per gallon

KINGMAN - Going up, and up, and up ...

According to AAA, the months-long climb at the pump continued last week, as prices rose throughout the country. On April 14, Arizonans paid an average of $3.66 per gallon, an increase of 6 cents from the week before. Across the nation, fuel prices jumped nearly 9 cents and more than a 25 cents from March to $3.81 per gallon.

Crude oil continued to maintain triple-digit prices, trading above the $105 per barrel mark this week, reported AAA.

Despite declines in U.S. demand, investors are still making heavy investments in oil and their futures. Driving this speculative trading is a fear of supply disruption due to violence in Middle Eastern and North African countries. As a result, the inflated price of the commodity inches Arizona closer and closer to a $4 per gallon average at the pump, reported AAA.

"The current state of economics does not warrant this persistent, meteoric rise in oil prices," said Linda Gorman, the director of communications for AAA Arizona. "This type of market activity demands immediate scrutiny by our country's leaders, as this untamed market is burdening already encumbered motorists."

However, Gorman explained that this situation continues to highlight the American people's need to reduce their dependence on oil and develop a comprehensive energy solution.

When AAA representatives speak about energy solutions, they say it is going to take everyone - from politicians and consumers to road engineers and vehicle manufacturers - to craft and execute a plan. If market speculation is allowed to inflate prices, AAA's Michelle Donati said there needs to be some type of oversight. But a one-pronged attack on investors will not be enough, she explained.

For example, when gas prices soared to all-time highs in 2008, people changed their driving habits. But the moment those prices went back down motorists regressed to the same driving habits, said Donati.

When Kingman's Sue Boyd was asked how she felt about investors driving gas prices up with speculation, she said they get away with everything and it won't stop until the people who can make it stop do something.

"It drives me nuts," Boyd said as she paid $20 for less than 6 gallons of gas. "I want to kick the prices and their pants."

Another Kingman resident, Sharon Holmes, said it is ridiculous to rely on oil from overseas because America has more natural gas than it knows what to do with. There are gas and oil refineries all over the country not being used, and it is time to tap them, she said.

"Now is not the time to gouge the American people," Holmes said. "We need to make up our mind that things must change."

There are lots of alternatives not being explored, she said. For instance, people can convert their car engines to run on natural gas relatively cheap, so that the American people can find a use for the natural gas their country sits on, she said.

The gas prices of 27 Kingman gas stations surveyed by AAA Tuesday showed that both Stockton Hill Road Circle K gas stations boast the two lowest gas prices in the city. One charges $3.66 per gallon; the other charges $3.69. The highest price per gallon in the city is $4.16, and it belongs to the Mobil at 3041 E. Andy Devine Ave. Of those surveyed, the median price per gallon is $3.80; people can pay that price at Woody's Food Store at 3620 E. U.S. Highway 66.

Last week, Tucson and Yuma held the low and high state fuel averages at $3.50 and $3.78 per gallon, respectively. Wyoming and California held the low and high price extremes for the lower 48 states at $3.55 and $4.19 per gallon, respectively. California, Illinois, Alaska and Hawaii now have averages above the $4 per gallon mark, reported AAA last week.