News

Pain in the Pump

Dallas Hammack of Oak Harbor chose not to fill up his truck Monday, opting to put “just” $30 worth of gas in the tank. He estimates the big rig gets 15 miles per gallon. - Marcie Miller
Dallas Hammack of Oak Harbor chose not to fill up his truck Monday, opting to put “just” $30 worth of gas in the tank. He estimates the big rig gets 15 miles per gallon.
— image credit: Marcie Miller

By MARCIE MILLER

Staff reporter

Patti Anderson had just one word to say about the high price of gas as she filled up her car in Oak Harbor Monday: “Ouch.”

There’s no question gas prices are painful nationwide and on Whidbey Island. The prices keep going up, and no one knows where or when they will top out. The price for a gallon of premium has now breached the $2 mark.

“It’s a new record every day,” Janet Ray, state AAA spokesperson said. The auto club has been tracking gas prices since the late 1970s, but has never seen prices like this.

But then, Ray said there has never been a situation like this, with war looming in the oil-rich gulf states but no start or end date in sight.

Nationwide AAA reports gas prices have leveled out, but on Whidbey Island and elsewhere in Washington state they continue to climb.

A survey Monday afternoon showed a price range from a low of $1.73 for regular and $1.93 for premium at the Arco AmPm on Highway 20 in Oak Harbor to a high of $1.87 for regular and $2.07 for premium at the Chevron station in Coupeville at the corner of Highway 20 and Engle Road.

At the AmPm, manager Barbara Alderette said theirs is the cheapest gas on the island, and business has not slowed with the rising prices.

“We’ve always been busy,” she said.

Cars lined up six deep at each gas island in the usual late afternoon rush, but the drivers weren’t looking happy.

Richard Willard had been driving his 4-wheel drive Ford pickup from Clinton to Oak Harbor every day to the job site, but this was his final fill up before parking it for awhile.

“It costs me $60 to fill up both tanks,” he said. “I’ll be taking the bus to work now.”

At another pump Dallas Hammack of Oak Harbor was putting just $30 worth of gas into his Ford extended-cab pickup. He was not happy with gas prices, but he said he had heard “on the radio” that prices were supposed to go down by summer.

With the big truck guzzling gas at the rate of a gallon every 15 miles, Hammack said he would be looking for a car with better gas mileage.

At the Tesoro pumps at DK Market in Oak Harbor regular was $1.81 per gallon, and premium was $2.01. Owner Ki Hwan Kim said he hadn’t seen a slowdown in business yet, probably because prices were pretty even around town. He also speculated that with prices rising almost daily people felt they should fill up sooner rather than later, hoping to beat the next increase.

In Coupeville, Chevron station owner Jeong Kim worried about the price increases, looking out at the empty gas pump islands.

She was selling a lot of snacks and cigarettes, but little gas.

“We used to be the cheapest gas in town, now we’re the most expensive,” she said.

Like the other gas station owners, Kim expressed frustration that the individual owners don’t set the gas prices. The companies, such as Arco and Chevron, call and tell them what the price of the day will be, based on the current barrel price.

As she talked, customer Donald Blankenship put down four crumpled dollar bills and a handful of change. He was buying gas one trip at a time.

“I just gotta get home,” he said. He estimated 25 percent of the money he made at his part-time job went for gas.

The good news may be that Whidbey Island gas prices are no worse than anywhere else in the state. AAA’s state averages posted Tuesday morning showed regular at $1.857 in the Seattle area, up two cents from Monday. Spokane posted the lowest average price, at $1.747.

Gasoline and diesel are not the only petroleum products increasing in price. Heating oil and propane are rising at about the same rate.

At Corey Oil Propane, furnace oil Tuesday was $1.839 per gallon cash, for 100 gallons. A 200-gallon delivery would cost $376.76, at $1.739 per gallon.

Owner/partner Dave Klieman said they have seen people cutting back on heating fuel, or switching from oil to propane.

“Everybody thinks it’s ridiculously high,” he said.

Oil and propane are normally closer in price, with oil slightly cheaper.

A month ago oil was $1.289 per gallon for 200 gallons, propane was $1.389.

“Everybody is saying, ‘if we had only known,’” Klieman said. There’s still a lot of cold nights ahead, but filling up a 200-gallon oil tank now will cost dearly. But, like people at the gas pumps, waiting to fill up is a gamble that may not pay off soon.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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