Area residents dealing with record gas prices

Northern Blair County residents are dealing with high gasoline prices just like the rest of the country, but the burden may be a little easier with prices about four cents cheaper than the national average.
AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, reported that motorists are now paying $1.738 per gallon for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline, one-tenth of a penny higher than the previous record set Aug. 30 of last year. Premium unleaded costs more than $2 a gallon in many parts of the country.
In this area, the price of self-serve regular unleaded gas was $1.699 a gallon at several service stations and convenience stores.
The price for mid-grade and high-grade gas at self-service locations varied slightly in a survey conducted this morning. Snappy’s in Bald Eagle posted prices of $1.789 and $1.889 for the higher grades of gas. Other locations reported a consistent $1.769 for mid-grade and $1.839 for high-grade gasoline.
Tyrone’s full-service station, Paul’s Amoco and Tire, reported prices of $1.799 for regular and $1.849 for the higher grade of gas it sells to its customers.
The Daily Herald also spoke with several motorists to get their opinion of the higher prices and they were asked if they had changed or planned to change their driving habits. A number of area residents did not feel the situation was directly affecting them as they indicated they did not do much driving, but some did indicate they thought the high prices might be a problem for other consumers.
Motorist David Ewing of Tyrone was philosophical about the high prices when he was interviewed while pumping gas at the Choice store in downtown Tyrone.
“You’ve got to pay it. They have you over a barrel,” said Ewing. “I haven’t really changed my driving habits, but I don’t fill the tank up all the time. I buy 10 maybe 15 dollars at a time.”
Ewing has a trip of about 200 miles scheduled later this year and he didn’t think it would affect his plans.
Another motorist, Andrea Supenia of Tyrone, thought the high prices might cause her some concern this summer.
“I think it will affect us more in the summer since we have a trip planned to North Carolina,” said Supenia.
In addition to the Snappy’s in Bald Eagle and Paul’s Amoco in Tyrone the following service stations and stores were included in this morning’s survey: Sheetz in Tyrone and Bellwood; Martin’s, Bellwood; Rossi’s Exxon, Tipton and Uni-Mart in Tyrone and the Kwik Fill on Route 220.
Orlando, Fla.-based AAA gets its data from Oil Price Information Service of Lakewood, N.J., which collects retail price information from 60,000 locations daily.
Gasoline prices traditionally rise between March and May as refiners temporarily shut down their plants in preparation for the peak summer driving season, when special clean-burning blends of fuel are required. These shutdowns shrink supplies.
This year, the effect on price has been magnified because commercial inventories of gasoline are already low. For the week ended March 12, U.S. gasoline inventories stood at 199.6 million barrels, down from 202.1 million barrels a year ago.
The most recent statistics from the Department of Energy show that gasoline demand has been roughly 4.5 percent higher than last year over the past four weeks, at 8.9 million barrels a day. Moreover, refiners are maintaining extremely lean inventories these days because of the high price of crude oil, another factor contributing to higher fuel prices.
Crude oil for May delivery sold for $37.45 per barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 40 cents. The price of oil is below recent highs but still near its highest level in 14 years.
The Energy Department\’s weekly survey of retail gasoline prices, released Monday, showed a jump to $1.743 in the national average for regular grade gasoline in the week ended March 22, up from $1.724 the week before. That\’s still 0.4 cent below the record the agency reported last August.
The department\’s Energy Information Administration compiles the data weekly from a sampling of about 800 locations from a database of 115,000 stations monitored.
Last week, another private survey, compiled weekly by California-based analyst Trilby Lundberg, put the average price of gasoline at $1.77 per gallon – a penny above the survey\’s previous record in May 2001. Lundberg surveys 8,000 gas stations.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)