Travelers upset as pump prices climb

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2005

Gas prices have risen to over $2 a gallon and people in the state of Alabama are beginning to feel the pinch. Recently, it was reported that AAA Alabama is expecting the price of gas to rise again during the spring.

&uot;It’s one of those unusual situations where there’s not a very obvious reason for the increase in prices,&uot; said Clay Ingram, Public Relations Manager for the Alabama division of the American Automobile Association. &uot;Nearly 99 percent of the time there is something we can attribute price climbs to. In this particular situation, there’s really not a clear-cut answer. Part of the reason is that the Wall Street side has had a real flurry of activity buying crude oil. And then again, this is the time of year when prices start to climb. But those two things combined are not enough to warrant the increase that we are seeing right now. Beyond that the reason is unclear. There is no shortage and there is plenty of gasoline usually an indication that prices will come down as weather warms up, decreases demand for heating oil. Other than that, it’s become a little bit of a mystery to some degree, nothing out there that should cause this much of a spike.&uot;

Nationally, the price of gas has risen to $2.06 a gallon for regular gas. In the state of Alabama, the spike has pushed gas prices up to $2 a gallon for regular unleaded. And according to Ingram, this is the first time that gas prices have been this high. The previous high price was $1.95 a gallon for regular unleaded on Nov. 1, 2004.

&uot;We broke that record on the first day and ever day since then we’ve just added a little more to the price,&uot; said Ingram.

Driving down Fort Dale Road, one can get a sense of the increase in prices. The Shell Station,

BP, Chevron, both Phillips 66 stations and Exxon all have their regular unleaded marked at $2.08 a gallon. The Texaco has theirs labeled at $2.11 a gallon for regular unleaded. But it’s not just the regular unleaded prices that are making the vehicle owners suffer. Diesel Fuel has also risen in price.

&uot;I think this is ridiculous,&uot; said Shawn McComb of Talledega. &uot;Diesel fuel is the easiest to make and it shouldn’t be around $2 a gallon.&uot;

McComb had stopped at the Fort Dale Chevron to fill up his Dodge Ram F250 before heading back up the interstate to Talladega.

&uot;We travel a lot, nearly every weekend we are on the road,&uot; said McComb. &uot;We just got back from taking a load of horses to Andalusia. I had to fill the truck up going down and now I’m having to fill it up again. It’s ridiculous that

27 gallons of Diesel costs $60. I’ve spent $120 in the past two days on gas.&uot;

Business owners have been experiencing mixed reactions from their customers.

&uot;The people haven’t complained as bad as I thought they would have,&uot; said Jerry Wasden, manager of the Chevron on Fort Dale Road. &uot;Of course with the price our volume is down. But I don’t know why the gas prices have risen. I guess it’s the oil company trying to meet supply and demand. It’s that or either the stock market. People are going to have to cut down on their long trips.&uot;

As a way to possibly relieve the spike in petroleum product prices, Congress has recently passed a bill allowing for the drilling of oil in Alaska.

&uot;It will put us in more control of our own destiny and help us keep control and take business away from foreign countries, especially the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, (OPEC),&uot; said Ingram. &uot;They say that they are going to cut their production back because there is a surplus. But it’s really just a scare tactic. The Wall Street sellers start buying futures and then when the price raises they sell. They are doing this to generate interest. All of their buying and selling is built on rumor. Wall Street people haven’t figured out that the Oreganization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries folks are threatening but never carry it out. Cut it back for a couple of days, then go back to their normal rate of production. People that are aware of that are the ones that are selling gas themselves. There has been a little flurry of activity in the crude oil futures, gasoline futures different brokers buying driven price up

We need to get them calmed down a little.&uot;

While the OPEC countries could have some effect on the price, what really is helping to drive it up is the demand for it.

&uot;That’s the No. 1 factor,&uot; said Ingram. &uot;In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, the demand would fall off because not that many people were driving. The last year or so when we’ve been setting prices, the demand has not dropped off at all. It’s a lot of factors that could contribute to this. A lot more people are driving in the U.S. today compared to 10 years ago, China is driving more than in years past the demand for gas is coming from more drivers and people are driving vehicles that don’t get good gas mileage. There are a lot more people driving SUV’s and bigger vehicles that don’t get good gas mileage. People are driving vehicles that get 12 or 14 miles a gallon is keeping that demand up pretty high, pretty consistent.

Probably the biggest thing we are going to have to do is reduce the demand for it. We still have pretty strong inventory around the country, we just have to find ways to use less vehicles and gas-guzzling cars for something that gets better gas mileage. We are trying to encourage someone to reduce driving as much as possible

When someone has to go four place, they could make one trip to all four places instead of four separate trips. Also, people could car pool and share some driving responsibilities with a friend Any opportunity you can find to reduce consumption will help you by saving money and will help by decreasing demand across the state and then across the country, a lot of people making a difference can really add up.&uot;

But, until the gas prices level off and begin their descent back to normal, people have begrudgingly accepted what is the inevitable – it’s a majority out of their control

&uot;Everybody comes in saying the price is too high.&uot; Said Tim Matthews, who works behind the counter at the Shell Station on Fort Dale. &uot;People are not angry at anyone in particular but understand what’s going on with the prices. There is enough coverage nationally for people to understand that it’s not just Greenville raising the prices. So when they come in, they understand that it’s not me or my company that has raised the prices.&uot;