Watching The Pain At The Pump
Gene O'Hare fills his car up with gasoline at a local filling station. Gas prices in the area are currently hovering around $4 and expected to increase. (Times photo by Eric Crews)
With gas prices in Transylvania County steadily rising since January as they reach $4 per gallon at several local gas stations, residents in the county are beginning to feel the impact.
But, according to local gas station owner Ro Galloway, who took over ownership of the Cedar Mountain Quick Stop with Steven Galloway and Shirley Galloway last August, the prices are only expected to go higher.
“We understand from our vendors that they will only go higher,” she said. “What we’re hearing is that by Memorial Day it is going to be over $5 per gallon. Needless to say, everyone is feeling it at the pump.”
Galloway believes the government will have to step in to try and slow the rising prices.
“If the government doesn’t step in and do something, it is going to be over $5 per gallon,” she said. “There is nothing that they can do about it because the oil companies want to make money, and it is bought and sold on the stock market.”
However, despite the increase in prices at the pump, Galloway doesn’t believe it will have an impact on people’s driving habits.
“I don’t think it is going to slow people down,” she said. “It’s the summer, and people want to get out. Either they are going to pay (the price) or sit at home. And I don’t see too many people sitting at home. They’ve got to work.”
Galloway said that friends and customers from other parts of the country have told her of paying much higher prices, which helps put the seemingly high gas prices in this area in perspective.
“We’re complaining about $4, but there are people around the country that are paying much more than that,” Galloway said. “But what hurts here especially is that the jobs just aren’t here, especially in Transylvania County, so the high prices are just very frustrating.”
Last week, Galloway’s gas station began charging more than $4 per gallon, the most since she and her husband began operating the store last August.
Overall, the prices nationwide are the highest they have been since the summer of 2008, when gas prices skyrocketed to more than $4 per gallon before falling back to lower levels in the fall of 2008 as the recession weakened the economy.
The national average is currently $3.92 per gallon, according to figures released by Energy Information Administration (EIA), which tracks and analyzes U.S. energy data. The current price per gallon is up 18 cents over last year.
U.S. average prices in February reached a record for the month, according to the EIA, which said that gasoline usually reaches a high during what’s known as the U.S. summer-driving season.
The EIA predicts a slight increase in gas costs before peaking at $3.96 per gallon in May.
At the Cedar Mountain Quick Stop, Galloway said that while the price at the pump is high, the profit for the gas station owners is pretty thin. The average amount of money a gas station makes on a gallon of gas sold is around seven cents, she said.
“When we filled up last time we paid $3.999 per gallon,” she said.
The gas station is currently selling that gas for $4.05 per gallon.
“It’s a really thin profit margin,” she said.
For some consumers, the higher gas prices are starting to affect their budget and their travel decisions.
Doris Kitchen, a Brevard resident who mostly drives locally, said the higher prices are just something drivers are going to have to deal with.
“I don’t think the president can do anything about it,” she said. “I think it is, like they said, the fact that there are so many people in China driving, and the problems in Iran.”
Kitchen said that she does not believe the big oil companies are at fault for the higher prices.
“I don’t really blame them,” she said. “I think it is just the situation.”
Kitchen said the higher prices have begun to affect how far she drives.
“If I need to go to Asheville for something, I don’t go because of it,” she said.
Kitchen doesn’t know how high the prices will climb this summer, but she hopes for her pocketbook’s sake that the pric-es are about to peak.
“I hope they are about ready to slow down,” she said. “It especially hurts the people who drive trucks for a living and the people who drive out of town to go to work.”
For Gene O’Hare, a retiree who lives in Brevard, the higher prices don’t directly affect his decisions. But he can relate to the impact the increased prices have on others.
“Most people have to drive quite a way to work,” he said. “I would imagine it takes a toll on their budgets.”
O’Hare said one of the perks of retirement for him is not having to worry about money as much as he once did.
“One advantage of retirement and having a good income is that the price of the gas doesn’t make much difference to you,” he said. “But you can’t help thinking about it knowing that people are driving to work everyday longer distances.”
For Floyd Cole, a local farmer who supports a family, the higher prices are having a big affect on his life. He believes the high prices all boil down to one thing: greed.
Cole said the rising prices are taking their toll on his family’s budget.
“Trying to take care of a family has made it a stretch from week to week,” he said. “It’s affected us big time.”
Cole, who works with King Creek Farms, said the rising fuel prices have also begun to impact their farming operation this year.
“We’re trying to get the fields ready to plant,” he said. “But the fuel prices are killing us. It is twice as much to plant this year, so that means that the prices of vegetables and everything else will go up next year.”
Cole said that as a result, the long-term costs of everything related to fuel prices from food to furniture would skyrocket.
Prices Wednesday at a local gas station.
“Everybody uses diesel as the fuel to ship with,” he said. “So they have to raise their prices to ship it, so in turn it has to raise the prices for shipping. So in the end it will raise the costs of everything. It all runs downhill.”
One thing that Cole said he continues to question is why the government is continuing to ship refined fuels out of the country.
“Why are we sending that all overseas?” he asked. “We could use it all right here.”
As far as the prices this summer, Cole said he would not be surprised to see prices at the pump as high as $5.
“Then, when they cut it back down to $3.50, everybody will be happy,” he said. “That’s what they usually do.”
Cole said he is dismayed when he hears that the price of crude oil decreases, but the price at the pump remains high.
“It all comes back to greed,” he said. “Nobody has ever got enough. They’re always wanting more.”