Michigan Gas prices flirt with $2-a-gallon markgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
HIGHER AND HIGHER: Gas prices flirt with $2-a-gallon mark
Friday, June 2, 2000
By Garrison Wells The Grand Rapids Press
Record fuel prices shot even higher Thursday, pumping up the cost of travel and the blood pressure of West Michigan residents shelling out as much as $1.79.9 for self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline.
That is 11 cents more than the day before. The price for premium at some stations edged near $2 a gallon.
"1.79!" exclaimed 50-year-old Justine Broadwood, a Grand Rapids resident and store detective. "It's $1.79!"
"I'm furious with this," said Dorothy Morley, a 70-year-old Plainfield Township resident. "Terrible! Why doesn't the government do something about this? They (service stations) can do whatever they please."
Earlier this week, the average price of gasoline in Michigan hit a record $1.67.5 a gallon, up 12.4 cents from last week, according to AAA Michigan.
At $1.79.9, residents and businesses are paying an average of 96.8 cents more a gallon for unleaded, self-service gasoline than they did in January of last year.
And prices, said Nancy Cain, spokeswoman for AAA Michigan, are probably going to rise until August because of the busy summer travel season.
"No one really knows" what prices will do, said Tom Fehsenfeld, president of Crystal Flash, which has 32 stations in the region. "There are so many different factors that nobody can really call the future of gasoline."
Despite the customer outrage, Cain said there are no indications that gas prices are limiting travel.
"For some people, that's $2 a gallon," she said. "At $2, they're going to do something different. Right now, the people who are going to travel are still going to travel."
Even businesses are feeling the squeeze.
Next month, customers of Grand Rapids-based Executive Coach Limousine Service will have to pay a surcharge as owner Jim Ziebarth offsets the rising costs.
"Until this month, we swallowed the expense," Ziebarth said. "But next month we're going to have to increase our rates a little. We can't afford to do it any more."
His service has five stretch limousines, two vans, two small buses and three sedans.
A limo trip to Holland used to cost about $5 in fuel. Now, it's up to between $8 and $9 to top off the tank after the trip, Ziebarth said.
"It's hitting us really hard," he said. "But you don't know who to blame. You hear one thing, then you hear another. It's all political, if you ask me."
At Great Lakes Motorcoach, the cost to fill the 150-gallon gas tank of one of their 21 buses has climbed to $253.50 or more.
To keep afloat, the Walker firm has tacked on a surcharge and hiked rates, said Great Lakes Motorcoach Vice President Rick Reisig. "We absorbed it for quite a while until it got to the point where we couldn't do it any more," he said.
The simmering price of fuel has even hit the Big Lake.
At Pole Kat Charters in Grand Haven, owner Preston Kuks has added a $25 charge when his boats go out to a depth of 200 feet, or about six miles out on Lake Michigan.
All of the businesses say they will drop the surcharges and rate hikes when prices go down. But they're not sure when that might happen.
"I'm hoping," said Reisig.
While businesses can jack up the prices to ease the pain of paying the higher cost of gasoline, however, consumers can't. They have to cut expenses where they can.
Eighteen-year-old Dave Swart, who just graduated from Northview High School, drives his dad's car as much as possible.
And cruising with his friend, 18-year-old fellow Northview graduate Kevin Schultz has become an event in which they pool their resources to pay the fuel costs.
"It's getting to the point where we can't afford that," Schultz said.
"We put our money together," Swart added.
Others, such as 70-year-old Sol Yolles, buy gasoline earlier in the week before it bumps up in price, but otherwise don't expect to change their behavior significantly. The semi-retired owner of a downtown hair salon drives a Ford Escort.
"I'm not pulling back," Yolles said. "But I think it's a racket."
For those who want to conserve, however, AAA offers the following tips:
-- Change driving attitudes. Make fuel conservation critical when choosing which vehicles to drive, the distance of the destination and what trips and errands to run.
-- Consider driving style consequences. Save fuel by slowing down, maintaining steady speeds and avoiding rapid acceleration and sudden stops. Leave plenty of time to reach destinations and don't let the engine idle.
-- Shop for the lowest prices locally but don't drive too many miles hoping just to save a few cents.
-- Practice good vehicle maintenance. Make sure tires are properly inflated, the air filter is clean, engine and chassis are properly lubricated, and spark plugs are in good condition.
-- Check your vehicle maintenance manual to make sure you are buying the right grade of gasoline. Most vehicles are designed to operate on lower cost regular, unleaded gasoline.
-- Consider car pools and public transportation.
This is only the fifth time AAA has felt the need to issue fuel conservation tips.
The other times were during World War II, the two oil embargoes of the 1970s and the Persian Gulf War in 1990. Then, at least, people were able to place the blame somewhere.
These days, they're not sure where to turn.
"There's got to be a solution to this," Morley said. "I don't know what the answer is. What do we do?"
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 02, 2000