Gas prices affect more than just the pump
Record gas prices have driven up costs for a variety of goods and services and changed some people’s habits, although disagreement exists over the exact forces inflicting the pain at the pump.
“You can’t just not drive,” said Kevin Hyland, sales manager at Grass Valley Ford, adding that everyone is “tightening their belts” in the midst of a situation that reminds some of the gas rationing of the late 1970s.
Local residents, like those elsewhere, are increasingly looking to buy more fuel efficient vehicles in the face of elevated gas prices, Hyland said.
With an average of $3.33 per gallon, California gas is among the most expensive in the nation, which is currently averaging $2.91, according to Californiagasprices.com, in contrast to $2.51 and $2.17, respectively, a year ago.
Refinery outages for maintenance and worries that more will break down during the upcoming hurricane season – Hurricane Rita knocked out 25 percent of refinery production last year – have pushed up gas prices, said Doug MacIntyre, senior oil market analyst for the Energy Information Agency in Washington, D.C.
Political concerns over oil-producing countries such as Iran and Nigeria, and increasing demand from China, India, U.S. and the Mideast are other reasons, MacIntyre said. California prices are higher than those in the rest of the country because of tighter emission standards and the cost of transportation across the Rocky Mountains, he said.
Judy Dugan, research director for the Foundation of Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, held oil companies responsible for the rise in gas prices, saying they have a “long history of manipulating gas supply to keep prices high.” She called for an update to anti-trust legislation to penetrate the “complete lack of transparency” in the industry.
Whatever the reasons, “It’s a bummer,” Mike Tassone, a town of Washington-area resident who was filling his tank at a Flyers in the Brunswick Basin last week, said of the high gas prices.
Grass Valley area prices ranged from $3.20 to $3.55 last week, averaging $3.31, according to AAA.com. Prices in the Brunswick Basin hovered around $3.25 Thursday evening, and were $3.29 at the Chevron station on Main Street in Grass Valley and $3.44 at the Chevron station on Sacramento Street in Nevada City.
Tassone said he has to pay his own gas expenses for the driving required in his job in the well-drilling industry, which is an 80-mile round-trip most days. Higher gas prices mean he’s now paying an extra $75 for gas every week.
Companies with delivery services have hiked their fees along with gas prices.
Ordering pizza delivery from Miner Moe’s in Grass Valley now costs 50 cents more, and the price of sending flowers through local florist Blooming Garden is up a dollar, small changes that could be harbingers of an inflationary period touched off by the higher prices.
Some local residents are changing their driving habits in the face of spiraling pump prices, with the number of bus riders up 14 percent from last year, according to Nevada County Transit Manager Bill Derrick, although he listed improved services and safety concerns about driving Highway 49 as other reasons for the rise.
To reach staff writer Josh Singer, e-mail joshs@theunion .com or call 477-4234.
TIPS FOR SAVING GAS MONEY
• Slow down. The faster you drive the fewer the miles you will get per gallon.
• Drive steady. Avoid quick stops and accelerations that waste fuel.
• Maintenance is key. Keeping your engine tuned and tires inflated can make a difference in your fuel consumption.
• Use the air conditioner judiciously. Keep the AC off and the windows down when you are cruising around town and on city streets. Once you reach the highway or about 50 mph, roll up the windows and turn the on the AC due to the amount of drag.
• Don’t pay extra for premium gas if you don’t need it. Consult your owners manual and stick to the recommended octane.
• Shop around. Keep a watchful eye and you’ll be surprised at how much prices can vary from one gas station to the next.
• Schedule your errands to minimize drive time or, if possible, walk.
• Travel light.
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