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February 19, 2013

Area drivers: No shortcut for steep gas

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — New Yorkers are angry about gas prices, but many of them are also trying to make the best of a bad situation, they said and wrote Monday in response to questions about the upward spiral.

The state started the week with the third-highest gas prices in the United States, after Hawaii and California, according to an Automobile Association of America survey.

Local residents said they are making do, limiting travel to the necessary.

“Staying home and watching old movies sounds pretty good right now,” Jenny Horowitz said in a post on The Daily Star’s Facebook page in response to a question about gas prices.

“I think all of us should cut down to the bare minimum of gas use and let them choke on it,” wrote another poster, Alecia Ernst. “Just separate the needs from the wants in using our cars.”

The state average for unleaded regular gas was $3.98 a gallon on Sunday, nearly 24 cents higher than the average for Pennsylvania, the survey found. The average price in Hawaii was a whopping $4.28 and in California it was $4.16.

Motorists at local gas stations said Monday they were practicing what many preach.

Chris Showers, 17, of Morris, who was filling up at the Country Store and Kitchen on Main Street in Oneonta, said that he spends about $40 a month on gas, and that he fills up when he’s in Oneonta.

“It’s cheaper here than in Morris,” he said.

The Morris Central School student said, “I don’t drive where I don’t have to go, and it’s easier to just bum rides off people,” the teen version of carpooling.

A customer at a nearby gas station who asked that only her first name, Anna, be used, said she frequently travels between Morris and Connecticut and tries to buy gas in Massachusetts. The price last week on the Massachusetts Turnpike was $3.73 a gallon, she said.

“It’s always cheaper in Massachusetts,” she said, adding that when she heads to Connecticut, she makes sure she has only enough gas to reach Massachusetts and then buys only enough gas in Connecticut to get her back to its northern and less-expensive neighbor for a fill-up.

AAA says that prices nationwide had gone up for 32 consecutive days as of Monday.

The price spike is being attributed to several factors, including refineries going offline for unplanned maintenance or to make the switch to gasoline from home heating oil for the warm-weather driving season.

Crude oil prices also have risen 10 percent as OPEC has cut production, the experts say. In addition, some observers say demand is rising as a result of an improving U.S. economy.

One gas station co-owner, who asked that its name and its owners’ names be withheld, said the station broke even or lost money on gas sales. The gas just brings in customers for their repair business, the co-owner said.

The business model is similar for convenience stores, where gas is a break-even item that attracts customers who then buy higher-markup items.

“I’m not sure why they’re (prices) going up,” Anna said. “I heard it on the news this morning, but I’m not really sure those explanations are good ones, and even the reporters on TV didn’t have good explanations.”

“I like it when it gets back to $3.50,” she added. “Over $4 is going to kill me.”

“It’s way too much,” Kathy Ross, another Facebook poster, wrote. “Especially for people making minimum wage. And for us who make more than that, too. It’s a big struggle for all of us.”