Local gas prices spike as Libyans revolt

Local gas prices spike as Libyans revolt

March 5th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in News

Persistently high gas prices are taking their toll on fuel users of all types, from motorists and contractors to truckers and municipalities.

Chattanooga gas prices rose to a high of $3.36 per gallon Friday for regular gas and $3.67 for diesel, hitting consumers such as Crystal Degges.

Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Mar 4, 2011 -- Phillip Hawkins, an employee of The W.D. Scott Co., Inc. Landscape Contracting, fills up his truck with diesel gas at Pacific Pride in Chattanooga, Tenn. In order to keep the engines clean, Hawkins uses diesel fuel. The price of diesel fuel continues to rise.

She spends as much as $1,000 per month on gas commuting from her home in Dayton, Tenn., to see her handicapped daughter in Chattanooga, a cost aggravated by the 10-mpg, handicap-accessible van she uses to transport the two of them, she said.

Prices for a gallon of regular unleaded are up 41 cents over the past 30 days, and up 75 cents from a year ago, when a gallon of gas cost $2.61.

"When it gets to $5 per gallon, my horses are going to get ridden a lot more," Degges said.

She also shuttles her boyfriend to odd jobs in Dalton, Ga., and Cleveland and South Pittsburg, Tenn., in her new Ford F-150, which adds to the bill.

"If this gas don't go down, I don't know what people are going to do," she said. "They've got house payments, electricity payments, and now this."

But motorists aren't the only ones affected by price spikes.

Contractors such as Tim Atwood, operations manager for Chattanooga-based Metro Lawn Care, purchase 10,000 gallons of fuel per month during the growing season.

"From the time we start in the morning to the end of the day, something that uses gas is running," he said. "We run gas mowers, large engines, small engines - everything uses gas."

It's gotten to the point where he's built rising pump costs into each contract, with the client responsible for fluctuations in fuel prices via a fuel surcharge.

"We are very comparable to the trucking industry, in that we run on gas," he said.

Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress, which runs 8,000 trucks, goes through 12 million gallons of fuel each month, spokesman Greg Thompson said Friday.

"It's the second largest cost we have," he said.

The cost of fuel surcharges, which is passed onto customers, eventually reaches the consumer in the form of higher-priced goods, he added.

AAA on Monday said unrest in Libya is responsible for a "temporary burst" of increase that drove oil prices above $100 per barrel after that country halted oil exports.

However, oil prices fell again after other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which collectively hold more than 44 percent of the world's oil, said they would boost production to offset the disruption.

The highest price recorded in Chattanooga was $3.978 for a gallon of regular unleaded on Sept. 18, 2008, and $4.758 for a gallon of diesel on July 17 that same year.