Cape gas reaches $2.54 per gallon

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Now this is getting ridiculous.

Consumers and business owners spoke with one frustrated voice Monday in response to record-high gas prices that topped off at nearly $2.50 a gallon for regular unleaded fuel Monday.

"It's outrageous," said Carla Adams of Pevely, Mo., as she filled up her Cadillac Escalade at the D-Mart near Interstate 55. "Nobody likes it, but what are you going to do? You can't ride your horse to work."

In Cape Girardeau, gas prices were at all-time highs, hovering between $2.36 and $2.54, which book-ends the national average of $2.48 a gallon.

The gas prices are highest in California at an average of $2.78 for a gallon of regular unleaded and are lowest in South Carolina at $2.33.

In the past year, prices have increased about 63 cents, or about 34 percent, according to Mike Right, Missouri spokesman for AAA, the country's largest motorist organization. In the past three weeks, the average price for all three grades rose nearly 20 cents.

"It's setting records all over the country," Right said. "It's not unique to Cape Girardeau."

The price hike can be partially attributed to record high prices of crude oil. On Friday, crude oil was traded at an unprecedented $66.86 a barrel, though it had dropped slightly on Monday.

But that's not the only factor. Right said that there's also been decreases in production at oil refineries because of outages caused by storms knocking out power to plants. Hurricanes and storms could further interrupt oil production and delivery in the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

And he said not to forget there's still disorder in the Middle East and political uncertainty in oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Demand is also still high, he said, because people are still taking late summer vacations. Labor Day, a busy travel period, is still a few weeks away. Global fuel consumption is expected to rise 2 percent this year.

"All that adds up to higher gas prices," he said. "And how long it will last is anybody's guess."

Some consumers blamed the gas station owners, but Rhodes 101 co-owner Jim Maurer said it's not their fault.

Since Saturday morning, their cost has been $2.38 a gallon and they're selling it for $2.47, Maurer said.

"It's a dime whether we're selling it for a dollar and a dime when we're selling it for $2.50," he said.

But Maurer said he empathizes with consumers. He said there were a series of increases last week unlike he's ever seen, with a 4 cent increase on Tuesday, a 7.3 cent increase on Thursday, 9.7 cents on Friday and 6.6 cents on Saturday.

"That's a 4 or 5 cent increase every darn day," he said. "That's crazy."

Still, that was little consolation for consumers, who used strong adjectives like ludicrous, shocking and aggravating while gassing up Monday.

Terry Hamel of Jonesboro, Ill., drove 18 miles to Cape Girardeau because gas at home was $2.60 compared to $2.44 at Cash Only on William Street. Hamel said he drives 62 miles to McBride, Mo., every day for work and gas prices are driving him batty.

"It's aggravating me to death," he said. "I'm spending $85 a week on gas. That'll eat you up."

Business owners who rely on vehicles, such as pizza delivery, florists and trucking companies also were ill tempered, saying that the unprecedented gas prices are gobbling up profits.

At Bloomin' Balloons and Flowers, owner Kathy Brauss said she's trying hard not to pass the cost onto consumers. She said she's cut back on the number of deliveries a day, meaning that some customers are having to wait a bit longer to schedule deliveries.

"You do what you have to," she said.

At the Cape Girardeau County Area Transit Authority, executive director Jeff Brune said they spent $2,973 on gas in July, up from July 2004's $2,484 and July 2003, when it spent $1,758. The transit authority is a public transportation service that is partially funded by federal grants. Brune said fuel prices are the top concern right now.

"It's extremely stressful around here," Brune said. "We just don't know what we're going to do."

One possibility, he said, is they may have to start cutting back the number of trips they make to places like Wal-Mart and doctors offices.

Still, adjusted for inflation, prices have yet to climb to the record levels reached in the 1980s. Gas prices in March 1981 would be $3.03 per gallon expressed in today's dollars, according to one expert, while a barrel of oil would be about $90.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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