How painful it is to look up at a gas sign these days and see fuel prices at nearly $3.70 a gallon, but what’s more painful is having to dig deeper into the pocketbook trying to find money to pay for the increase.
Over the last few weeks gasoline prices have jumped nearly 50 cents a gallon for regular, and when a consumer fills their tank completely up the difference in what they were paying is quite significant.
Like West Point resident Tommy McDonald, most commuters stopping at the pump shake their heads in disbelief at today’s fuel costs.
“Going to work, it’s kind of ridiculous; 30 miles there and 30 miles back,” said McDonald, who is now having to pay nearly $100 a week for gas. “We just have to deal with it I guess. Keep working.”
Leisurely activities like going out on a regular basis is totally out of the question, he said.
“You have to stay at home,” McDonald said. “You can’t go out to eat. It’s just ridiculous. It’s tough on everybody though; it’s not just me. It’s the economy. We have our own source of oil so they ought not have to go up. It’s always something. I try not to worry about it because stress and worry is what causes heart problems and things like that.”
McDonald said now that prices have soared near $3.70 a gallon he’s having to put about $50 more in his tank each week.
West Point resident Casey Pearson said a fill up these days cost her about $100 whereas a fill up less than one month ago cost her about $70.
“It’s hard to pay for because I drive a big truck, and my little $20 doesn’t go very far,” Pearson said. “When that’s all you have that’s all you have. It’s hard to go anywhere because you can’t put gas in your vehicle.”
Pearson said fortunately she hasn’t had to cut back on much to pay for gas, but she continues to be cautious of how much she spends on gasoline as well as other necessities. Instead of adding unpredictable fuel treatments to her gas tank she said she simply makes shorter trips and picks up everything she needs in one trip.
“Used to I’d go to Walmart three times a week,” Pearson said. “Now, no. You go on payday, you get what you need for two weeks and you don’t go back.”
The United States Energy Information Administration reported Thursday that Brent crude oil, which determines the wholesale price of gas in the U.S., increased about $6 per barrel, which is about 15 cents per gallon. The EIA reports that major factors of the increase in gasoline crack spreads(differences between wholesale petroleum product prices and crude oil prices) include planned and unplanned refinery maintenance, a low starting level of gas crack spreads going into the new year and developments in global product demand that affected domestic refinery utilization rates.
According to the EIA, gasoline crack spreads were significantly low in November and December when consumers were paying less than $3 per gallon. The low crack spreads resulted in an unusually low cost of fuel given the prevailing crude oil prices. There are some indications that the pressure on gasoline crack spreads is easing, but the short term outlook for gas prices are still expected to inch slightly higher. The EIA states that gas pumps have not fully reflected the steep rise in wholesale prices so if wholesale prices remain steady instead of decreasing then another increase is probable.
That’s not a very welcoming piece of information to local commuters like Joe Ligon, but he says those who depend greatly on their vehicle to get from A to B will have to suffer with the high prices for a while.
“I’m going to have to get it no matter what,” Ligon said. “I started saying to myself I should start getting the gas at night because I wake up in the morning and the prices have gone up. There’s no use crying about it; if it goes up it goes up. If it goes back down it’s down. Regardless of if it goes up to $4 a gallon I’m still going to have to pull up here and get some gas.”
The transition to summer-grade gas, which is more expensive than winter-grade, also contributes to the fuel cost increase.