Five ways Americans are coping with $4 a gallon gas prices

While Americans are paying an average of $3.51 per gallon to fill up their gas tanks, the average is far higher – $3.90 – in California. Here are five portraits of how Californians are coping with $4 a gallon gas prices.

3. Caveat surfer: The confused sheet-metal worker

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    Gas is pumped into underground tanks at a station in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday.
    Ben Margot/AP
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Sheet-metal worker Richard, who declines to give his last name, says he is getting socked by his daily commute of 150 miles from Antelope Valley and is looking seriously for alternatives to his white Honda Accord, which gets “a pretty decent 25 m.p.g.”

“To tell you the truth, I’ve pretty much already considered getting a motorbike if I didn’t have to carry stuff all the time,” he says.

In the meantime, he has been following advice he got from an e-mail the other day.

“It said stuff like, ‘Only fill up your tank early in the morning when the ground temperature is still cold … the colder the ground the more dense the gasoline,’ ” he says.

All service stations have storage tanks buried below ground, the e-mail said, and it admonished against buying in the afternoon or evening when gasoline gets warmer and expands, not giving the customer an exact gallon because of the lack of temperature compensation at conventional pumps.

Other tips included:

  • Fill up your gas tank only when half full, because the more gas you have in your tank, the less air is occupying its empty space, minimizing evaporation.
  • Do not use fast mode on the pumping trigger, because pump hoses have a vapor return which sucks vapors back into the underground storage tank and “high” mode creates more vapor.

Richard says he took the tips seriously for awhile and was delighted until the Internet website – which investigates and rates web rumors – said several of the tips were not based on provable data.

“That was a crusher,” he says. “I was spending a lot of time and energy finding stations when I hit half a tank, and then waiting for the slow pumping."

"Oh well, I’m going to keep struggling along as I can," he adds. "If prices ever reach $5, then I’m getting a motorcycle or changing my work altogether.”

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