May 22, 2007 in Business

Drivers are getting their fill

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

A driver fills up at a Hess station in Collegeville, Pa., on Monday. Retail gasoline prices climbed to another record Monday — even adjusted for inflation, topping the record set in 1981.
(Full-size photo)

Noel Macapagal stood next to his car at the Shell station on Second Avenue and Lincoln Street, where regular gas cost $3.329 a gallon Monday, looking at the pump.

“Forty-two dollars for a Chevy Cavalier,” the Logan neighborhood resident laughed. “It’s kind of funny.”

So, Macapagal decided to start jogging to work, even though he lives a five-minute drive away.

For the past few months, he has had to make some sacrifices as gas in Spokane gets more expensive, he said. He used to stop by the convenience store while filling up; now, all that money goes to gas.

“I find myself dreading the once-a-week fill-up,” Macapagal said.

Gas prices nationwide have struck an all-time high, even adjusted for inflation, according to Sunday’s Lundberg Survey. At $3.18 a gallon, the average broke the previous record set in 1981. AAA set Monday’s national average at $3.196.

Spokane’s average price Monday was also a record, with regular fuel at $3.315, according to AAA. The average in Coeur d’Alene was $3.188.

Other locals are taking alternatives to driving through town, now that gas prices are so high. Laura White, a mother who lives on the South Hill, recently bought a motor-scooter for her 15-minute commute to work. It gets 80 miles per gallon, she said.

Beverly McGuire, also from the South Hill, said she and her family used to take several road trips to California a year. This year, they won’t be driving.

“You can almost fly cheaper than you can drive, or almost equal,” she said. “So why even bother?”

With Memorial Day weekend heralding the start of the summer vacation season, many people will face more expensive road trips. McGuire said she won’t be driving because of gas prices. Others, such as South Hill resident Ward McAuliffe, are taking the extra costs in stride.

“It’s more expensive, but I just deal with it,” McAuliffe said. “I don’t know what’s with the prices. Someone’s making money, and it’s not us. So I’m just paying for it.”

Jim Redmon, president of Divine’s Auto Centers in Spokane, said profit margins are “terrible” at the 13 Shell stations he operates.

His company buys fuel from distributors, such as Shell or Chevron, and marks up the price to pay for employee wages, rent and utilities. As the price of gas increases, so do his taxes and credit card fees.

Redmon expects a spike in gas sales Thursday and Friday as the long weekend nears. The high prices, however, shouldn’t affect that too much, he said.

“I think it’s a mixed bag,” Redmon said. “If people can afford it, they’re going somewhere. If they can’t, they’re staying.”

One year ago, the national average cost of regular gas was $2.892, according to AAA. In the Inland Northwest, gas cost $2.954 in Spokane and $2.859 in Coeur d’Alene.

Prices dropped for the winter months, but they have steadily climbed since the beginning of 2007, when the national average was about $2.20, according to AAA.

Redmon said there’s no telling what gas prices could do in the future. “It’s all speculative,” he said.

White was not optimistic about the coming months. “It’s kind of scary,” she said. “It’s not good. It’s not going down.”

Meanwhile, she will continue to ride her motor-scooter through town. And Macapagal will continue to lace up his shoes in the morning before jogging to work.

“Maybe the only guys who benefit from this are Nike,” Macapagal said. “You know, they guys I buy my shoes from.”

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