Pain worsening at the pump |

Pain worsening at the pump

Cliff Thompson

This week you can compare gas prices to the stated mission of the crew of the starship Enterprise of the television series Star Trek: They’re boldly going where they’ve never been before. In Vail, the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $2.32 with premium fetching $2.59. That’s up 13 cents a gallon from just two weeks ago and 53 cents a gallon more than a year ago – and it’s just in time for the start of the summer motoring season when demand for fuel peaks. “We’re in uncharted territory now,” said Mary Greer of Colorado’s American Automobile Association, a motorist’s advocacy group. “Crude oil is selling for $42 a barrel.”That, too, is a record that supplants the spike in prices that occurred in 1990, shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait. And that’s little consolation at the pump”I’m not thrilled,” said Bob Yost of West Vail Tuesday as he filled up. “There’s not much you can do about it.”The price hikes cause Gypsum’s Jim Peterson to question why. “I’d like to see where it’s coming from,” he said. “It make you wonder how they set prices.”Greer said some gas station operators in metro Denver, who have at times changed prices daily, have resorted to black humor by affixing “Arm, leg and first born,” next to the corresponding gas price signs.Statewide the price of a gallon of regular is $2.01 – a price some Europeans find ludicrously low, Greer said. Gas there can cost as much as $5.75 a gallon. And believe it or not, this week’s prices aren’t the worst many consumers have experienced.”Adjusted for inflation, 1984’s prices are still higher,” she said.California tops the list of states with the highest priced gas at $2.36 for a gallon of regular while Oklahoma has the lowest at $1.92.But why does gas cost so much now? It’s simple economics. There’s more international demand for motoring fuels, led by a surging economy in China, that is stretching the production capacity of refineries, Greer said. “China’s demand for gas is competing directly with the U.S.,” she said. As the seasons change, so, too, does the demand for specially blended fuels that help combat smog, Greer said. Many states and metropolitan area require special fuels. That ties up the production capacity of refineries because they have to change what they’re producing, Greer said.Gas also costs more in resort areas because the expense of doing business is higher – and that’s passed along to consumers.So why not build more refineries? It takes too long – up to 15 years – to get the permits needed to build a new refinery, said Bryant Gimlin, a petroleum risk manager for Gray Oil, a Denver oil wholesaler.And when will the price of gas level off? “It could happen later in the summer or in the fall,” said Greer. “It’s hard to predict. We may see some relief then.”Like Greer, Gimlin said the demand for fuel should level off after Memorial Day and that could slow the gas price hikes. “We should see a change in the supply/demand fundamental then,” he said.Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.==========================================More information on gasoline prices

http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com ==================================================================================== Sidebar: Lots of motorists, lots of gasolineMore than 37 million Americans plan to travel 50 or more miles during the Memorial Day holiday and 31 million of them will drive.”Our members are telling us that despite (gas) prices, they’re going on vacation,” said Colorado AAA’s Mary Greer.That’s 3.6 percent more travelers than last year.The best two things you can do to save gas is make sure your car is tuned up and running properly and that your tires are properly inflated, she said. Untuned engines and tires that are under-inflated can rob up to 20 percent of your vehicle’s miles per-gallon.====================================================================================SIDEBAR: Aspen giving away gasBy Naomi HavlenAspen CorrespondentAspen is getting some attention for using high gas prices, of all things, to get people to drive here.A number of local hotels and property management companies are offering a free tank of gas for anyone who books a stay in Aspen for more than three days as part of the “Aspen’s Got (Free) Gas” promotion.Of course, given the price of gas these days and the amount of fuel a large SUV can hold, the offer is capped at $75.When the offer was announced last week, the Weather Channel wasted no time broadcasting the story, and Channel 9/KUSA ran a short story about the offer on their morning news broadcast. The Denver Post also ran a business feature on Tuesday about the unique offer.According to the Denver Post, Aspen is known as having the highest gas prices in the state by the American Automobile Association in Denver. On Monday, that meant that the price of a gallon of regular unleaded was $2.57 at The Aspen Store – the gas station cooperating with the hotels on the offer.The free gas promotion will last throughout the summer and into the leaf-changing season, ending Oct. 15.==========================================

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