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Pinching pennies at the pump

Prices have drivers thinking twice before gassing up

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POSTED: April 20, 2011 9:33 a.m.
Seraine Page/

Deborah Johnson fills up her Lincoln Navigator at $3.71 a gallon on Monday at USA Petroleum. Johnson said she stopped at the station after seeing a competitor’s price at $3.77.

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Gas prices just keep getting higher and higher, and there’s no telling when it may stop.
“There’s really no way to tell when oil prices will go back down,” AAA Auto Club South Spokesperson Jessica Brady said Monday afternoon. “It’s hard to say when prices will go back down. We’re entering the time of year that we see the highest gas prices. We haven’t hit hurricane season and we really haven’t hit the summer driving season yet. … Hurricane season tends to drive up prices. We’re also using a more expensive fuel blend. … There are a lot of factors that come into play.”
With the average cost of gas at $3.71 in Georgia, most drivers are taking note of the dollars draining right into their tanks. According to the AAA website, the national average for regular gasoline is $3.83 per gallon.
A year ago it was $2.86.
Deborah Johnson drives a Lincoln Navigator and generally spends $70 to $80 to fill up her tank each week. She tries stretching her gas for two weeks, when possible.
“(Gas prices are) ridiculous. We need to do something and something quick or we’ll all be walking or riding the dollar bus,” Johnson said while filling up her SUV.
Several customers with large vehicles who recently filled up at USA Petroleum topped off their tanks at an average of $70 or more, including customers Charles and April Martin.
“I think we should go back to horses and carriages,” April Martin joked while watching her driver fill up their red truck.
The two said they hardly make any special trips out of town because of the price of gas.
“When it costs $80 to fill up, I work a day and a half just to fill my truck up,” Charles Martin said.
Even with prices skyrocketing to almost $4 a gallon, the Liberty Transit system has yet to see an increase in riders due to high gas prices.
“I think it’s the same. It’s funny because some of my staff members and I were talking about it, and we thought there would be a significant increase (due to gas prices),” Liberty Transit General Manager Theodis Jackson said. “Everything’s remained the same. We’re hoping that it will increase … people are getting used to the system.”
Although the price per barrel dropped a bit Monday to $108 per barrel, Brady said those figures quickly could change, shooting up gas prices anywhere from 3 to 5 cents this week.
“The past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the price of gas increase 8 to 10 cents each week. If that rate continues, you could see $4 by Memorial Day,” Brady said. “If this upward momentum continues, we could definitely see in some areas of Georgia the $4 mark.”
Manager Barbara Alexander at USA Petroleum said she wants customers to know they aren’t the only ones being affected by gas prices; the increases also hurt the people who run the stations.
Alexander, who owns a truck and a Mustang, opts for using the car over the truck to drive to work because of the price difference in gas.
“I use premium — I got a little over two gallons and it cost me $11,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy.”
Alexander said she drives around in the mornings to check competitors’ gas prices and reports the information to her corporate office to decide what the price of the day needs to be set at.
“I feel sad for the way that it is and the condition our country is in,” Alexander said. “We have to pay for our gas, too. Believe me, we get lots of people mad at us. But we have to pay the same thing they pay.”

 

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