Gas prices hit U’s drivers

Elizabeth Cook

The increase in the price of gas is affecting students’ lives, whether it’s commuting to school or to work.

David Friese, an American studies and history junior, said he still drives to classes because the bus routes are more of a hassle, but he did quit his job because of the commute and the price of gasoline and said he plans to ride his bicycle more in the summer.

Friese joins a growing number of Americans frustrated with increasing gas prices, including legislators calling for President George W. Bush to look into possible price gouging by oil companies.

Jerry Fruin, an applied economics professor and extension specialist in transportation, said the price of gas might be on the rise, but it’s still cheaper than it was.

Consumers are experiencing a fourth “bump” in gas prices, Fruin said. But it’s still cheaper than it was in the early 1980s when comparing prices in real terms and taking into account the changing value of the dollar.

For example, in 1980, crude oil – the stuff pumped out of the ground, refined and broken down into fuel – cost about $100 a barrel. Now it costs about $75 a barrel, Fruin said.

If gasoline prices follow the trends of previous increases, the price will go down again through conservation and use of alternative fuels, Fruin said. But when the cost goes back down, people stop conserving.

There are several reasons for the increase, Fruin said.

The world demand is higher and gas is being made at nearly the same rate it is being consumed, Fruin said.

“Production is at its capacity,” he said.

Natural disasters and politics also have added to the disruption and uncertainties that increase the cost, he said.

However, American gasoline also is needed more than it is made, he said.

“Our demand has outgrown our refining capacity,” Fruin said.

The change from the additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether in gasoline to ethanol has made it more expensive to transport gasoline, Fruin said.

Methyl tertiary-butyl ether had health and environmental risks associated with it, he said. The change to ethanol is less harmful, but it needs to be transported in a different way, which increases its cost.

Some University students bypass the higher price of gasoline by not driving to school.

Emily Capen, an elementary education and history senior, said she lives near 16th Avenue Southeast and Talmage Avenue Southeast and rides her bicycle because it’s faster and cheaper.

It takes about 10 minutes, she said, and if the weather is bad she wears a raincoat.

Capen does drive to work, but doesn’t think there’s a price people won’t pay for gasoline.

“It doesn’t matter how high it gets,” she said. “People will still pay it.”

Ryan Loeck, a computer science junior, said he walks from the Prospect Park neighborhood to classes because it would be too expensive to park and he still would end up walking on campus.

Loeck said he also drives to work and has seen a significant increase in the money he spends on gas.

“All of (a) sudden it’s a large chunk of your paycheck,” he said.

Students aren’t the only ones affected by the increase, gas stations are, too.

Madalena Ferreira, a store leader for Bobby and Steve’s Auto World on Washington Avenue South, said that in the past week there have been more drive-offs, and that the price of gas could have something to do with it.

Ferreira said she’s been working there for five years and Sunday was the first time a person drove off and left the nozzle on the ground.