High Gas Prices Hit Students Hard

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el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">DANIEL ANTOLIN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Do not be surprised to see cars lining up to pay $3 a gallon at gas stations this summer.?

It is possible. Currently, California gas is at a record $2.18 per gallon, with prices up 50 cents since Jan. 1; the price went up 40 cents last month. With per-unit fees set to jump to $26 next semester, students may not be able to handle further price hikes at the pump.

“If the students have jobs and come to school then they drive a lot and it becomes even more expensive to make ends meet,” Associated Students President Henan L. Joof said. “Their salaries are the same but they still have to pay more.” ?

English major Jeremy Casabella said, “It costs me $40 to fill my tank now every week or so. As a student, I could really use that money for college necessities (like caffeine pills) and paying parking tickets.” ?
But why is gas so pricey? According to MSNBC News, John Felmy, of the American Petroleum Institute, says it is because of the high cost of crude oil, which accounts for 43 percent of the cost of a gallon, with 30 percent going to taxes and the remainder paying for refinery expenses. Demand for gas has increased due to the winter weather in the U.S. In addition, California refineries have shut down for maintenance and stifled the production. Refineries are typically taken off-line during January and February for repairs.?

“On the business side, it’s not much of a difference for us,” said Saul Monge, Arco station manager on Figueroa and Ave 52. “All gas prices are high; pumps have lower prices or higher prices, but only by a few cents and that sort of thing only matters in big cities where people drive more, even then it’s not a big deal.”?

Even though the weather has been hotter lately, relief may not be in store. Starting April 1, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is scheduled to decrease oil production by one million barrels a day in order to stabilize oil prices as demand for heating oil decreases because of warmer weather. That is, however, until the summer when demand will jump back up again on account of more people hitting the road.?

Mark Maier, an economics professor on campus, said, “If you take into account inflation, prices are not as high as they were 25 years ago. Both oil prices and overall prices have doubled since then.” He attributes recent gas figures to anticipation of the summer and to the coming OPEC reduction.

The state has already begun preparing for what is ahead. Mandated by law, refineries are mixing their winter inventories with ethanol, an alcohol fuel produced from corn, for their summer supply. According to e85fuel.com, this new brand of gas, known as E-85, “[has] superior performance characteristics … burns cleaner than gasoline … [and] is a completely renewable, domestic, environmentally friendly fuel.” The cost should be less than or comparable to conventional gas. ?

What is more, California Sen. Barbara Boxer announced recently that the Federal Trade Commission has started conducting an informal investigation on the matter (which means that informants will not be placed under oath). The examination will set out to explain why price increases are higher than normal. ?

In hopes of answering unanswered questions, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano sent a letter to President Bush in February urging him to conduct a national investigation on what her office calls “an enduring mystery.” Bush, who has ties to the oil industry, has yet to respond directly. ?

Instead, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has said that the administration is “extremely concerned” about high gas prices, which it could expected to be in an election year. It could force the government to keep down prices by dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the U.S. inventory of gas. Despite the hikes, there may be ways to avoid emptying your life savings into the pumps.

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There are more than 40 stations to choose from in Glendale alone, so shop around. It may cause them to compete for business by keeping prices down.?

Also, the Automobile Club of Southern California suggests: do not carry anything in the trunk that isn’t necessary to carry; the more there’s in one the less distance is covered per gallon. ?

Also, even though it is hot, try to resist turning on the air conditioner so much and crack a window. Staying cool, the California Energy Commision said, can cut mileage by 21 percent.

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Lastly, stay within the speed limit. Going fast uses up more fuel. Driving slower helps conserve gas. The Environmental Protection Agency says that 1 percent of fuel efficiency is lost for every mile over 55 miles per hour.