Gas prices rise locally over concerns in the Middle East

At 8 p.m. Wednesday there was a line to get into the Speedway on West 150th in Cleveland. And why not? They were selling gas at $3.02 a gallon, while many nearby stations were already up to $3.29.

Sad part is that it may not be long until $3.29 is what has them lined up.

"We could be talking $5 a gallon," oil Industry analyst Phil Flynn told newsnet5.com.

For the first time since October of 2008, oil prices hit $100 a barrel Wednesday before retreating to $98.   "I'm very happy it didn't continue to go to $102 to be honest with you," said Flynn.

"This is a very serious situation. What's happening in the Middle East is historic. It could potentially be the biggest thing that happens to oil prices in our lifetime."

What direction oil prices go, Flynn says, depends on if the growing unrest seen in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya moves any further.

"We really don't know where this is going," said Flynn.  "We know that this is spiking up gasoline prices to record levels for this time of year.  If it ends right in Libya and it doesn't spread further, the market will be able to bear it."

Bill Mahnic of Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management says the hike comes at a time economists had hoped tax changes that went into effect last month would have put more money into consumer pockets but it's money that now may be going into our tanks.

"They cut the payroll tax by 2 percent, so everybody's paycheck went up two percent this year. Most economists thought that was going to increase the GDP growth in our economy," he said. "If gas reaches $4, that benefit disappears."

"I don't think we can reach a point where it will throw us back into a recession but we won't get the robust rate of growth that we thought we were going to get," he said.

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