Feeling the pinch at the pumps

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 27, 2003

A tightening national inventory and the end of summer demand brought higher than normal gas prices to the Camellia City this week.

Prices on Tuesday in the area ranged from $1.61 for regular unleaded at a store east of town to $1.63 in town.

According to Jim McGowin of Max Oil Company, the recent fluctuations resulted from the massive blackout in the Northeast two weeks ago and also a ruptured pipeline in Arizona.

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&uot;The blackout put suppliers behind because they had to shut down the refineries, causing shortages in inventory,&uot; he said. &uot;When the inventory gets short, prices go up.&uot;

McGowin said his company does not set local gas prices and they follow prices set by Shell Oil Co.

While customers at area convenience stores may think the price hike is limited to them, store owners quickly point out they pay more as well.

&uot;Ridiculous!&uot; said Sherry Jeffcoat about the up-and-down gas prices.

She and her husband own Heartland Country Store on AL Highway 10 W.

She said because price changes occur so often, she never knows exactly what gas is costing her until it arrives.

&uot;I call to order gas for the store and ask them how much it will cost me,&uot; she said.

&uot;They say to call back later because they don't know at that moment.

I go ahead and order anyway.&uot;

Jeffcoat said between Aug. 4 and Aug. 25, she had an increase of 20 cents in prices.

The biggest one-week increase was of 6 cents.

On average Jeffcoat said her store makes 9 cents off every gallon of gas she sells.

However, she said other costs such as electricity cuts into that 9 cents profit.

She said during periods of fluctuations such as this week, there is a difference in what her customers buy.

&uot;They don't do fill-ups,&uot; she said.

&uot;They don't get as much gas as usual. They tend to buy just enough to get them by.

They never complain.&uot;

Josie Albritton did complain Tuesday morning as she filled-up her Cadillac Coupe Deville at a store in town.

&uot;It's ridiculous!&uot; she said standing at the pump.

&uot;The way things are going it now cost more for gas than food. &uot;

Albritton said on average she spends approximately $100 per month on gas.

She said this hurts financially because of other costs in her family.

&uot;I have two sons in college,&uot; she said.

&uot;I have to drive one to Evergreen and the other one goes to school in Birmingham.&uot;

Veronica Brown shares Albritton's belief that her family gets to do less because of the high prices.

She said she spends approximately $1,500 a year on gas and that has to be used to travel to and from work.

Brown, who commutes to Montgomery each day, believes consumers feel the pinch on purpose.

&uot;I think oil companies take advantage of situations such as the blackout and the busted pipeline,&uot; she said.

&uot;Why should a pipeline in Arizona have any effect on us here?

That's just stupid.&uot;

She said she spends the money for the gas because she has no choice. She said she has to work and she can't earn locally what she earns at her job in Montgomery.

Betty McGough of Honoraville said she takes the gas hikes in stride and rarely notices them.

&uot;I think the gas price hikes are spur of the moment things,&uot; she said while filling up her pickup Tuesday.

&uot;They're going to jack up their prices regardless.

They'll come back down after summer.&uot;