Squeeze at gas pumps affecting area residents

STEUBENVILLE – Kelly Wallace didn’t pay attention to the new price of gasoline until after she had put the pump nozzle into her gas tank.

“Oh my gosh,” the Mingo Junction woman said while holding her hands to her face.

“I am paid minimum wages and I’m not sure how far I can budget my money. I just paid $20 inside the station and I got 5 gallons of gas. And I still have two days to work in Steubenville this week. Something will have to give. Food will probably be cut back first,” Wallace said Thursday in front of the North Seventh Street Kwik King in Steubenville.

“The government and big business are almost forcing us to go on welfare. This is the first year I haven’t worked two jobs and now it is getting even harder,” she added.

“I thought the price of gas would be cheaper these days because we have the oil and gas industry in the area,” observed Hershell Wells of Pottery Addition.

“Usually it is a case of supply and demand. But there is plenty of supply and the demand has gone down. So you would think the price would go down. The gas prices will definitely affect my travel plans,” said Wells.

Corey Frances of Steubenville said he is still working two jobs, “so my kids can eat and I can buy gas.”

Francis makes the daily drive from Steubenville to Quaker City, Pa., so he keeps a close eye on gasoline prices.

“It is what it is, but the price of gas these days is ridiculous. But there’s not much you can do about it,” he said at the Third Street Speedway.

Rising oil prices and maintenance work at two Great Lakes region refineries are being blamed for local gasoline prices that hit $3.99 at some local pumps.

By Thursday the area Speedway gas stations had dropped their price by one cent, while the BP gas stations remained at $3.99.

The prices at the pump also are affecting Frank & Jerry’s Furniture and Appliance business on North Fourth Street.

“The price of gas has become an important factor in determining our costs. Ever since this store was started by my father we have offered free delivery and setup of our appliances. And we will continue to do so. But rising gas prices have meant a tighter profit margin. The prices have created a significant issue for us,” stated Jerry Barilla.

“We will continue our tradition of free delivery but it is becoming harder because of the gas prices,” Barilla added.

According to auto club AAA, the state average for a gallon of regular gas was $3.93 on Thursday, while the national average Thursday was $3.63, up just 2 cents from a week ago.

Ohio gets most of its gasoline from the Chicago spot market, which is known for dramatic price swings, according to AAA Ohio. Refineries in Witing, Ind., and Joliet, Ill., have been offline for maintenance recently, which has led to tight supplies. Last week, the region’s refining capacity dropped to a three-year low.

Restarting the refineries should ease supply concerns in the region, but there’s no way to tell how soon that could ease the price at the pump.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with Gas Buddy, a division of the Oil Price Information Service, said refinery problems are making the Great Lakes region’s wholesale prices “bipolar.”

By contrast, the average price Thursday in neighboring Pennsylvania was $3.48. But in Michigan, it was $4.23. In Indiana, it was $4.12.

The highest recorded average price for a gallon of regular gas in Ohio was around $4.16 in May 2011, according to AAA.

Frank Colalella of Steubenville took a pragmatic approach to rising gas prices while he filled a gas can at the North Seventh Street Kiwk King.

“Its all relevant. It moves the economy for the gas and oil industry. It is like any business. If I can make money, I can invest money. I have to hope the oil and gas industry takes the profits and invests the profits wisely,” remarked Colalella.

Scott Campbell, co-owner of M & M True Value Hardware, said he tries to combine deliveries on the store truck.

“We try to maintain minimum delivery charges for our larger items and put our deliveries together,” he said.

“I also understand the local gas station owners who are struggling with the prices. They realize the same profit margin no matter how high the price may go. And the local owners also see their profit reduced when customers pay with a credit card. So local gas station owners are also being squeezed,” explained Campbell.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.)