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California Drivers Using Less Gas as Prices Continue to Climb

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Aired 4/19/09

The price of gasoline is in record territory again this week in San Diego.  Prices are hovering just below four dollars a gallon.  The steady price hikes around California are also convincing motorists to cut back how much gas they're using.  KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

Commuters going to the UC San Diego campus are increasingly looking for new ways to get there.  Campus parking officials say less than half of the people coming to campus got there in a car by themselves.  Carpooling, busses, and even bike use are on the rise.  

The State Board of Equalization says gas saving trends like those are showing up around the state.  The board's Anita Gore says high gas prices have consumer's attention.

Gore: Gasoline for April, the average gasoline price was $3.85.  It was half that in February 2004 at $1.91.

Gore says the board tracks how much gas is sold because the agency collects excise tax and sales tax of every gallon.  She says gasoline consumption dropped in 10 of the previous 11 months. 

Gore: We typically see a decline in gas use as the price goes up. There have been a couple of other times in history in previous decades where we've seen a couple months decline but certainly nothing that's bee sustained for this length of time.

The Utility Consumer's Action Network tracks gas prices at hundreds of local filling stations.   U-CAN's Charles Langley says the average price in San Diego is $3.93 a gallon.  It's $4.42 for a gallon of diesel.  Even so, he says the increases may be slowing.  

Langley: If you look at gas prices sort of like a ball thrown into the air every spring, there's a point where it goes up as high as it can and then starts to slow down its acceleration and start to drop.

Langley says the price peaked in mid-May last year at $3.50 a gallon.  He expects a similar pattern this year.

Erik Anderson, KPBS News

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