WASHINGTON, DC - We'll get the latest word on gas prices from the Energy Department Wednesday and in most places, they won't stop people from hitting the road this summer.
The national average is nearly a dime higher than a year ago because prices are way up in the Midwest. Everywhere else, people are paying about the same as last year or less.
Going into the summer driving season, only 13 percent of Americans say gas prices might keep them from going places this year.
Two years ago, three times as many people said they were staying home. Prices would be even lower except that refinery problems in the Midwest are driving up prices there.
All this comes with demand continuing to fall - as Americans buy new cars that get better mileage. And with supplies up and demand down, many experts say oil and gas prices should be lower. In fact, European regulators are investigating whether BP, Shell and other oil companies are conspiring to fix prices - to drive up their profits. Those oil companies say - that's not true.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden says the U.S. Justice Department should join that investigation. He says if companies are fixing prices in Europe, that means world oil prices are higher than should be, too. So, American drivers are paying more for gas than they should be. The Justice Department says it's reviewing Wyden's request.
Since we're producing so much more oil here at home, why aren't gas prices falling?
If all the gasoline refined in this country was sold here, prices would be a lot lower, but it's not. 15 percent of that gas was sold to countries in Central and South America -- three times as much as was sold six years ago. So taxpayers give tax breaks to oil companies to encourage production here at home and a lot of the gas produced from that oil goes someplace else.
Just because we're paying less for gas doesn't mean we're spending a lot more money on other things. It seems like every time gas prices fall noticeably, they go back up again, at least a little. So people aren't convinced lower prices will last. Plus, it looks like lower gas prices are offsetting the higher payroll taxes people started paying in January. So people have about the same amount to spend as they did last year, not a lot more.