Area gas prices edge past $2 mark

Monday, March 21, 2005

Gasoline prices in Cape Girardeau broke the $2 barrier for the first time last week.

Three gas stations at the Interstate 55 and Route K junction advertised fuel for $2.04 per gallon on Friday.

That was 2 cents shy of Friday's national average of $2.06 per gallon.

Most gas stations in the area were selling gas for $1.95 to $1.99, including stations along Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau and Main Street in Scott City.

Jackson, however, boasted the cheapest gasoline around. All the gas stations along East Jackson Boulevard advertised gasoline at $1.88.

That's still not cheap.

Jeff Brune, the executive director for the Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority said there are still three months left in the authority's budget year. The authority will surpass the amount budgeted for fuel by the end of this month.

"It could definitely have an effect on our service," he said. "When you average $2,500 to $3,000 per month for gas, it really starts to add up when you get to the $2 mark. And it makes it tough to budget for next year. We figure in for inflation, but you never know what's going to happen."

Brune is fortunate that he runs a transit system in Jackson, which is typically a hot spot for cheap gas.

According to missourigas prices.com, which relies on people from around the state to report gas prices, there are 15 gas stations in the state with gas prices less than $1.90. Fourteen of them are in either Jackson, Cape Girardeau or Sikeston.

Jim Maurer, vice president of the Rhodes 101 group, said the 16-cent disparity between Jackson and Cape Girardeau is largely due to some gas stations selling fuel below cost.

Maurer said the high gas prices don't do any good for the local gas stations. He said it just means the clerks have to handle more cash and more people drive off without paying.

"A lot of people I know give me trouble, but the high prices don't help us out one bit," he said.

The state average on Friday was $2.01 per gallon. That's up from $1.90 a month ago and from $1.72 on March 18 last year.

"The main culprit this time," said Mike Right, a public affairs representative with AAA, "is the high cost of crude oil and the high cost of wholesale gas."

Right said crude oil rose the about $56 per barrel and wholesale gas rose to $1.48 per gallon, a new record.

"It's driven by speculation and concern of the world's ability to meet the demand for crude oil," he said.

Government agencies have predicted a national average of roughly $2.10 to $2.15 this spring. Missouri's price is generally 5 to 10 cents cheaper than the national average.

Maurer said he has "no concept" of how high the prices might go. "It doesn't look favorable and it's not good for the economy."

Regardless of the cost, the demand is still there.

Just ask Scott Hoffman, who filled up his tank Friday afternoon.

"I don't really pay much attention to it," he said. "I just get gas."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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