By Katie Weitkamp/Managing editor
While gas prices have been down and up, according to AAA, prices reached an all-time high last week. The national average hit nearly $1.74 per gallon for self-serve regular grade gasoline.There are several reasons for the hike in prices according to Ann Belcher, AAA Bluegrass/Kentucky public relations coordinator.
“The price for crude oil is up to about $38 a barrel,” Belcher said Monday.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries confirmed Wednesday their decision to cut production, initially made in February, will now be implemented. Starting today OPEC will reduce production by 1 million barrels a day.
“China’s demand for gas has gone up,” Belcher said.
This affects the United States because there is a higher demand for the same supply, but China’s demand isn’t the only one affecting our prices – prices always go up in the summer, Belcher said.
More people travel in the summer and use more fuel. Belcher said this causes higher prices because it is harder to meet travelers’ demands.
Also summer means more stringent fuel restrictions to cut down on pollution in the air, in turn causing a different mixture of gasoline that makes prices at the pump jump.
The current average for self-serve regular grade gasoline price in Kentucky is about $1.66. Last month it was only about $1.60, and in 2003 it was nearly $1.58. However, Kentucky’s prices may seem like a relief to those in Nevada, Hawaii and California where the average prices are more than $2.00.
Jackie Lavigne, a junior recreation and parks administration major, said Kentucky prices are plenty high; her drive to campus is getting expensive. Though she lives in Richmond, she has noticed a significant jump in prices.
“I come to campus every day,” Lavigne said. “That means I have to put more and more gas in my car and it’s getting expensive.”
Lavigne jokingly said she might have to start car pooling. She said in the past she only car pooled because her car broke down or if something occurred beyond her control.
“I don’t like to rely on other people to get around,” she said.
But some students feel the gas crunch more. Jackie Russell, a communications disorders major from Owsley County, spends an hour and 20 minutes on her way to and from school three times a week.
She said her parents help her out with gas money, but that money “could definitely be used for something better.”
She said she hasn’t really thought about how to cut down on her gas usage, and in the year she has been attending Eastern she said she hasn’t noticed a significant increase in what she pays for gas, which is anywhere between $20 and $40 per week.
Commuters aren’t the only ones to feel the effects of the price hikes. Brittney Claycomb, a freshman forensic science major, said she hasn’t been able to go to her Shelby County home as often as she did before.
“I used to go home every other weekend at least for a day or two,” Claycomb said. This semester, however, she has only been home for one full weekend.
Wendy Bennett, an employee of Clark’s Shell Station on the Eastern Bypass, said she tries to buy her gas at stations located away from the interstate.
“The funny thing about it is the farther you get from the interstate, the cheaper the prices are,” Bennett said.
Bennett said she has heard customers complain about the price of gas; however, with a recent drop she hasn’t heard as much grumbling from patrons.
“When it was up to $1.79 people were saying things like ‘If it goes up anymore we aren’t going to be able to afford (gas),'” Bennett said.
Shelby Bailey, a team leader at Main Street Chevron, said she is hearing more and more from customers about the increase, though she said the consistently lower prices at her station help keep a steady stream of customers.
“There’s always someone at the pumps,” Bailey said.
One of the biggest tips AAA gives to travelers is to make sure automobiles are well maintained. She also suggests getting gas before the car’s tank is empty, which helps prevent getting stuck in an area where expensive gas is sold.
“Aggressively look around for better prices,” Belcher said. “You need to let them know consumers aren’t going to pay high prices (for gas).” She said the loss of sales will force higher priced gas stations to lower their rates.
One of the easiest things people can do to cut costs is to car pool, splitting the gas prices among other passengers. Also try not to gas-up on the weekends when gas costs the most.
While gas prices may be keeping some students from weekend trips, Belcher said AAA hasn’t seen a decline in road travel.
“Our counselors are still busy making TripTiks,” she said.
To help find cheaper gas prices visit www.kentuckygasprices.com, a site allowing users to post the cheapest and most expensive gas prices they spot.
Get most from gas tank fill-up*
Gas caps – About 17 percent of the vehicles on the roads have damaged, loose or missing gas caps, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.
*Tires – When tires aren’t inflated properly it’s like driving with the parking brake on and can cost an extra mile or two per gallon.
*Spark Plugs – A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as three million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.
*Air filters – An air filter clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a “rich” mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power.
Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents a gallon.
*If your vehicle doesn’t require premium fuel then don’t use it. Most vehicles work fine with a lower grade of octane.
*Think about using a credit card offering a gas rebate when you pay at the pump. The AAA Visa offers members a five percent gas rebate applied to their balance.
* Information courtesy of AAA Bluegrass.
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