Gas prices appear to be falling back closer to reality this morning after being jacked way up late last week in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and in advance of the long Labor Day weekend.

It's common for gas prices to rise a bit before Labor Day because many folks travel for the last unofficial weekend of the Summer season. Increased prices generally reflect an increase in demand but given the fact that there is so much fuel in stockpile it's questionable whether an increase was actually necessary other than for purposes of increased profitability. Toss in a hurricane in the Gulf though, and all bets are off. The storm alone is enough to send gas prices skyrocketing. And up they went.

Last Friday we noted sharp increases at the pumps. Some area stations raised prices by as much as 40 cents per gallon or more in a matter of a day or two. The bump was expected to be short lived as damage to the refineries in the Gulf and in Texas was less severe than feared. There is only so much milk you can get from a cow, if you get my drift.

Now, here comes Irma. By many accounts Irma could make Harvey look silly when and if she makes landfall. So, even though gas prices are coming down don't expect to see a return to normal just yet. The unknown spooks markets and as long as there is the possibility of another big storm prices will remain higher than they were.

Here is what you can do as a consumer to help yourself and your fellow drivers. Shop around and reward those stations with lower prices. This will help persuade the other stations with higher prices to lower them. It also encourages stations with lower prices to keep them low. It might also make sense to gas up before Irma makes landfall.

With any luck at all Irma will head out to sea and leave us all alone.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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