Area feeling pain at the pump

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 22, 2008

NATCHEZ — For drivers in Natchez, filling their tanks has become a pain at the pump.

Just before Thanksgiving, gas had barely begun to break the $3 per gallon mark.

Now the price of regular gas at almost every station in Natchez is $3.24 per gallon.

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A gallon of diesel is in within pennies of the $4 mark.

While Cole Jones normally fills the tank of his Chevy Tahoe on Friday afternoon, he said high prices were restricting the amount of gas he could purchase.

He only bought $8.31 worth.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Jones said when he normally fills the tank the cost can easily hit $100.

Jones said he has considered a more fuel-efficient vehicle but needs the Tahoe for its ability to lug his construction equipment around town.

Jones, who works in residential construction, said he has had to defer some of the high fuel costs to his customers by raising his rates.

Jones said others in the construction business have also had to raise their rates to cover the ever-elevating fuel costs.

At Great River Chevrolet, salesman Shane French said gas prices are always on the minds of his customers.

“Everybody wants to be economical,” he said.

And while French said customers are always looking for gas savings, they seek them out more now than ever.

As a result, French said some shoppers are moving away from big trucks and SUVs and trending toward fuel-efficient sedans and smaller SUVs.

Mike Right, AAA’s vice president of public affairs, said on March 16, when gas hit an average of $3.18, Mississippi saw its highest fuel prices ever.

Right said high gas prices nationwide are being driven by the “extraordinarily high cost of crude oil.”

On Friday evening a barrel of oil was selling for $101.84.

Right said the price of oil is deliberately being bid up by investors to hedge the impact of inflation in other markets that are currently faltering.

And Right said there is no visible relief in sight for drivers.

Prices for May and June’s driving season are expected to be approximately $3.50 per gallon, Right said.

And while some will opt for bikes or carpools to save on gas, Vera Hawes has figured out a way to lessen the blow at the pump.

“I just don’t look at the price,” she said throwing her hands in the air. “That’s the easiest thing to do.”