On the rise

Published 9:39 pm Thursday, February 24, 2011

Simply put: there’s no substitute for gas.

Preet Malhotra, a clerk at a local gas station, said business has been a little slower but only a little since gas prices began to rise about two weeks ago.

“People have to have gas,” he said. “There’s no substitute for it. So even when gas goes up, people will keep buying it because they have to have it.”

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According to the Associated Press, the average price per gallon was $3.23 on Thursday, driven in part by the rise in oil prices (more than $100 per barrel) and speculation over the unrest in the Mideast.

In Pike County, a world away from the conflicts, residents are just trying to cope with the rising cost at the pump.

Bo and Daphne Coppage own and operate three gas stations in the county, two in Troy and one in Brundidge.

She agreed that people have no choice but to pay the skyrocketing prices of gas at the pump.

“We’re all going to have to cut back, though, because people just can’t afford to pay these high prices,” Coppage said. “But where the cutbacks will be are on pleasure trips and vacations. People have to go to work so that’s not an option.”

Coppage said most of the gas sold at the stations they own is to local residents and college students.

“People still have to go to work and make necessary trips,” she said. “So maybe, the rise in gas prices won’t affect us as much as if we depended a lot on highway traffic.”

James Stucky watched the meter run up and up as he pumped gas Thursday.

“You still have to go to work no matter what you’re charged for gas,” he said. “I live out toward Shellhorn about five or six miles. What I’m going to do is get everything I need with one trip into town. I won’t be running back for a quart of milk.”

Stucky said that he doesn’t expect people to give up that big trip they’ve been planning or for young people to slow down a lot.

“The ones that it will hurt the most is us older people,” he said. “We try to live within our incomes but these young people – they’ve got credit cards. But the high price of gas, it’s going to hit us all.”

However, it’s not just at the gas pumps that Joe and Jane Doe will feel the pinch of high gas prices.

“Just about everything that we buy is affected by the price of gas,” said Johnny Garrett, owner of the Piggly Wiggly in Troy. “When transportation costs go up, we all feel it. At the grocery store, it’s been coming a little every week.”

Garrett said his customers are already making subtle changes in their grocery selections. To offset the rise in prices, more customers are buying private label products rather than the national brands.

With gas prices jumping several cents at a time, Garrett said, prices in the grocery store will have to keep pace.

“The one thing that is being affected the most right now is cooking oil because of its heavy weight,” he said. “But it’s not just the price of gas that’s driving up costs in the grocery store.

“Beef has really taken a big jump and, mainly, it’s a supply and demand thing. The beef supply is the lowest it’s been in many years. Producers just weren’t making money in the cow business and the big feedlots haven’t increased their herds. So the demand is greater than the supply.”

Garrett said the freezing weather conditions have destroyed much of the corn crop, thus driving up the price of pork and poultry because the cost of feed has increased.

“Corn is also being used in ethanol so it’s the supply and demand thing again,” Garrett said. “In the meat market, chicken is still the best buy. And peanut butter is an inexpensive source of protein.”

With the price of gas at the pump and raising prices in the grocery store, Garrett said it looks like people are going to have to stay home and eat more chicken and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“I guess, if you don’t have to go anywhere, don’t go anywhere and, if you go somewhere, ride with somebody,” he said.