Gas prices change lifestyles on Whidbey

Taped to the window of the Skagit Farmer's Supply gas station’s outdoor office in Oak Harbor is a year old cartoon that reads, “It’s hard out here at the pump.” A man pumping gasoline at $3.15 a gallon is frowning at a boy pumping free air into his tires.

Now, those are the good old days. The AAA auto club reported this week that the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Washington has zoomed to $4.15. Diesel appears to be heading toward $5 a gallon.

Oak Harbor’s gas stations stayed under $4 a gallon last week, but this week there have been several increases pushing prices well beyond that once-unimaginable figure.

Skagit Farmer's Supply customers shared their fueling anxiety with gas station manager Meryl Gordon and attendant Serena Overby earlier this week.

“It’s like this every day. We joke about needing bullet-proof jackets every time we go change the sign for gas prices,” Gordon said.

The most complaints, he said, come from business owners whose operating costs force them to raise prices.

James Simpson, owner of Industrial Power Splicing, said he is outraged at the price of diesel and that it’s destroying the economy. The cost was $4.89 a gallon.

“I’m a business guy and it costs me on average $150 to fill my tank. I travel 30,000 miles a year,” Simpson said. “I have to raise my prices.”

Small business owners don’t have as much of a financial reserve to cover rapid gas price increases as larger companies. Rasmussen Reports said that three-fourths of these owners say rising prices affect the profitability of their business. Furthermore, owners are often the last to get paid when they have higher-than-expected bills.

That day, Simpson spent $155 at the pump.

“Ain’t that a killer,” he said.

One solution for morning commuters is to find more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Leonard Brown stopped at Skagit Farmer's Supply to fuel his motorcycle. Despite the falling rain, he rode his bike because it has better gas mileage.

“This used to be my recreation bike. Now it’s my commuting bike,” Brown said.

Protests over surging gasoline prices broke out in Europe last month (about $8.20 a gallon in France) due to government’s slowing economic growth and falling tax revenue. Gordon said he thinks something similar could happen here if people start hurting enough.

Grievances expressed at the Skagit Farmer's Supply pumps that day included not being able to visit a mother in California, not being able to afford a yearly trip to Europe, and having to cut down on trips into Oak Harbor for weekly errands.

“I only have enough money to put a little gas in at a time,” Greg Frycer said. “I ride the bus as much as possible.”

Currently, Washington has one of the highest state gas taxes in the nation, at 36 cents per gallon. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon; this makes a combined tax of 54.4 cents per gallon. Presidential candidates have talked about suspending the federal gas tax this summer but no such action is being taken in Congress.

No one seems to be offering much hope that gas prices will be falling in the near future. The state Attorney General’s Web site recommends reducing consumption to reduce demand. Finding alternative modes of transportation or carpooling could impact prices.

To find the lowest gas prices in the area, visit

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