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Motorists fume at high price of gas

February 17, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

While several explanations were offered for a recent increase in gas prices, one thing is certain: Consumers are not happy about the change.

Asked at a local gas station if they had noticed prices going up about 12 cents in 10 days, according to AAA, local motorists polled Friday responded with nods and a common refrain: "Oh, yeah!"

"I wish they would go back down to how it was," George Limmer of Hagerstown said.

He has watched in frustration as the price he is paying per gallon has increased from $1.43 a gallon to $1.57 a gallon in recent weeks.

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"I think it is atrocious," Shirley Rowland of Hagerstown said.

In response to the price increase, Rowland and her husband have been shopping around more to find the best prices and have cut back on some of their traveling, she said.

In the past they would sometimes take the car on an errand "just to get out of the house," Rowland said. "Now we have to entertain ourselves."

"I think someone wants to make some money. It is the American way," Tim Matz of Mount Airy said.

Marty Miles, who drives 50 miles from her Berkeley Springs, W.Va., home to a job in Hagerstown, said she has been frustrated by the rising prices. She thinks the increases are the result of the federal government causing people to panic about a possible war against Iraq.

Laura Gery of Smithsburg said she thinks the increase is the result of the state of the economy and world events.

The gas price increase is the result of several factors, said Colleen Healey, the manager of public affairs for AAA's Mid-Atlantic office in Philadelphia. Among them:

n A colder-than-average winter is resulting in increased usage of home heating oil, which is the same product used for gasoline.

n Fear and speculation regarding a war in Iraq and any possible terrorist attacks. Those concerns affect the market for oil.

n An oil production strike in Venezuela, from which the United States gets 7 percent to 15 percent of its oil.

While the strike is almost settled, Healey said she did not think its resolution would result in gas prices dropping because there would still be continued uncertainty in the Middle East with Iraq and terrorists.

Scott Roach, vice president of retail operations for Roach Oil in Martinsburg, W.Va., disagreed. Once the Venezuela situation is resolved, he thinks the prices will drop slightly, perhaps by this spring.

Roach said the two biggest factors for gas prices are the Venezuela strike and the winter.

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