Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Most call gas prices 'hardship'


Drivers affected here and nationally

By Victoria Barber-Emery
Enquirer contributor

Gas prices hit a new high nationally last week, and Greater Cincinnati residents say they're feeling economic pain when they fill up. In addition, many local residents are worried the higher costs are here to stay.

poll "Anything that goes up is always a problem for my budget," said Latisha Jackson, 23, of Reading. "I'm a single mom, so I have to watch my pennies."

Jackson was buying gas for her Ford Escort on Monday at a Speedway on East Galbraith Road in Hartwell. "It just seems like there's always some different reason why we have to pay so much for gas. Most of the time I think it's because the gas stations just want to make more money."

Analyst Trilby Lundberg says the latest increase was prompted by crude oil prices topping $36 per barrel coupled with OPEC production cuts and a growth in crude oil demand, chiefly in the United States and China.

Demand for gasoline also is growing, thanks to an improving economy, while refinery capacity is tight and new federal rules for formulating less-polluting gasoline add to the cost, she said.

The national average price hit a record of $1.80 for a gallon of unleaded gas on Friday, according to the Oil Price Information Service. Prices at Greater Cincinnati gas stations are averaging about a nickel higher than the national rate.

Nearly half of Americans said higher gas prices have caused financial hardship to them or their family in a recent Gallup Poll. That was the highest level recorded by Gallup since May 2001.

The poll, made at the end of last month with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, showed 55 percent of Americans believed the recent increases were part of a permanent change in gas prices. And 56 percent said the cost of gasoline was a major national problem.

Larry Nelms, a 20-year-old Fairfield resident, agrees that the price of gas is a big problem. But Nelms, interviewed at a Thornton's at Ross Road and Dixie Highway in Fairfield while fueling his Honda Accord, couldn't say the higher prices were a hardship.

"It's just sometimes it's more than what we want to pay," he said. "We drive a lot. We go to church in Monroe, so we drive back and forth from church a couple of times a week."

Frank Espelage, a 77-year-old White Oak resident, expects prices to stay "like this for quite a while. I don't know if it will be permanent, but I think it's going to be this way until the war is over."

Roughly 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati residents believe high gasoline prices are permanent - and that the prices have caused them or their family some financial hardship, according to a new Enquirer/WCPO-TV poll. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Espelage, who was not interviewed for the poll, was asked about gas prices at the BP at West Galbraith Road and Colerain Avenue in Colerain Township."I think it's a rip-off because the price of oil by the barrel has gone down in the last few weeks but the price of gasoline has gone up," he said. "Now somebody is making a killing somewhere."

Patrick Mallony said he believes "there is gas out there. It's just a combination between the OPEC countries and the United States keeping the levels low to make higher profits."

Mallony, 39, is a Cincinnati resident who drives a Lincoln Navigator, which he was filling up at a Shell station at Hunt and Plainfield roads in Blue Ash.

"Everything like that is a financial crisis," said Mallony. "The prescription drugs are going up in price and everything else. It's always a burden. This is just one more nuisance that the American people have to face."

Marilyn Smith, a 46-year-old from Harrison, doesn't drive a lot, so the prices haven't affected her much. She also thinks the situation is temporary.

Prices always depend "on what is going on in some other part of the world, since we get our oil from overseas," she said while filling up her Chevrolet Cavalier at a Marathon on Harrison Avenue in Dent.

But she added, "I think what might be high right now is probably going to be considered low a couple of months from now when we hit vacation season."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. E-mail vemery@fuse.net

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