As gas prices climb, consumers take steps to fight back

The Sacramento BeeMarch 11, 2011 

Soaring gas prices were one of the final steps on America's road to the Great Recession three years ago, but we appear to have learned a few things since then.

Prices at the pump already are nearing $4 a gallon in California, and consumers and business owners are bracing for the possibility of the once-unthinkable $5 a gallon.

That first time was a sucker punch to the economy. This time the damage may be considerable, but Americans are better prepared, psychologically and practically, to fight back.

Driving habits have changed, more fuel-efficient cars are on the road and companies have refined their strategies to protect themselves from gas price hikes.

Sacramentan Bob Weiss, who paid about $3.80 a gallon earlier this week at a 76 station on X Street, was not intimidated by the thought of riding out the latest storm.

"Staycation is part of the language now, and yes, we've done that," he said.

Drivers have become more disciplined in their consumption. Gas use in California stayed flat last year, even when prices averaged a comparatively low $3.12 a gallon.

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