Motorists grapple with rising gas prices

By Gus Bode

As Murphysboro resident Dean Brandenburg steps out of his Chevy pickup truck, he opens the car’s gas door and unscrews the cap. He then inserts the gas nozzle and patiently waits for the click indicating his vehicle has been filled. It cost Brandenburg a little more than $47 to fill up Tuesday. The following days will be uncertain.

Brandenburg is just one of millions of motorists who have been plagued by the constant yo-yoing of gas prices.

According to Larry Alverson, an Energy Information Association petroleum industry analyst, the average price of gas in the Midwest is $1.89 per gallon, more than a 40-cent increase from last year.


Brandenburg, a traveling salesman, said in a typical year he drives about 35,000 miles for work alone and fills up twice a week.

He said while he is not happy with the gas prices, he has no choice but to pay.

“I depend on driving all the time,” Brandenburg said. “I have to drive.

“But right now, there is no competition for a gallon of gas. When there is no competition you just have to pay the price, and when you need the product, you have to buy the product.”

In Carbondale, like everywhere else, the price of gas fluctuates. With Wednesday’s prices ranging from $1.78 per gallon to $1.87 per gallon, officials say it is hard to predict what the day-to-day outcome will be.

Alverson said the primary factor in consumer gas prices is the expense on oil- producing countries to refine, manufacture and ship crude oil. He said currently, crude oil costs about $40 per barrel, a historic high. He said the conflict in Iraq is also contributing to the price surges.

“In a nutshell, the price is determined by what crude oil costs,” Alverson said. “And a majority of our crude oil comes from overseas.”


“It’s [gas prices] contingent on what goes on in oil-producing countries, and Iraq certainly is one of those.”

Marin Eovaldi, a Murphysboro resident and student, said it costs her $25 to fill her gas tank and, despite getting good gas mileage, between her daily activities of cheerleading practice, work and other errands, she may have to fill up twice a week. She said with a limited income, she keeps an eye open for stations with lower prices.

“When you’re a student and you don’t have a large income, you are going to notice who has the cheapest gas,” Eovaldi said.

But motorists are not the only ones feeling the crunch from increasing gas prices; businesses are also being affected.

Chuck Hedges, owner of Family Tree Garden Center, said his business spends between $100 to $200 per week on gas for five trucks.

Serving Mount Vernon, St. Louis, Paducah, Ky., and Cape Girardeau, Mo., Hedges said his gas expense has increased by about 15 percent in the past year.

He said while the business is sometimes able to offset travel expenses by factoring them into the overall bill for the work, it is not by much as many jobs are contracted at a fixed cost and the business also pays gas costs for the delivery of its materials.

“It’s just a trickle down thing, ” Hedges said. “You get charged more, you’re just going to have to pass it on to the consumer.”

“We’re all consumers. I’m still a consumer even though I own a business. I have to charge more, but yet I get charged more.”

Alverson said while gas prices are not expected to return to the $2 mark, this year’s high, they will remain on the higher side until the summer driving season ends.

Brandenburg said the only solution he sees to offsetting gas prices is finding a substitute.

“My only concern about gas is that one of these days we need to start finding something that allows us to be less dependent on the oil product,” he said. “The longer we depend on it totally, the higher the prices are going to be. The only thing to reduce the price of gas is alternatives to gas.”