gas.jpgA penny here, a penny there, pretty soon it adds up to driving right by a gas station because they've crossed a psychological barrier of asking more than four bucks for a gallon of gas. Area stations are trying hard to hold the line at $3.99 a gallon to keep from scaring the bejeezus out of drivers with the facts, which is that gasoline is the most expensive it's been since the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The New York Times looks at the phenomena, where gas stations cling to that number "3" with tenacity, while drivers go out of state--to New Jersey!--to top off their tanks at fifty cents less per gallon.

“At every 10-cent level, dealers don’t want to break the digit — it’s a psychological barrier,” said Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops. The trade association, based in Albany, represents about 7,200 gas stations statewide, including some 3,500 in New York City and Westchester and on Long Island.

“But the four is a mind-set,” Mr. Enstine said. “If you go to $4, you might as well go to $4.20 or $4.60, because in the mind of the consumer, they only see the $4.”

Consumers were quick to agree with Mr. Enstine, admitting that they'd rather head to Jersey than pay more than $4/gallon. President Bush has suggested a tax holiday on gas to give drivers a break. Mayor Bloomberg thinks that idea is "idiotic". In the meantime, it may eventually seem quaint that drivers found $3.99-a-gallon gas "shocking." At least NY gas isn't causing cars to break down.

gas, by Sherilyn at flickr