High gas prices add up for University students

by Jason Juno

University student Nicholas Mullenmaster said he pays $10 per day for gasoline in his 40-mile commute from Burnsville, Minn., to the University.

Increasing gas prices are causing some students such as Mullenmaster to have to work more to pay for gas, he said.

“This is just preposterous,” Mullenmaster said. “Gas prices should not be so high. It’s just ridiculous.”

Last year, 39 percent of students drove to campus, said Jacqueline Brudlos, marketing coordinator for University Parking and Transportation Services. That amounts to approximately 19,000 students.

“The high cost of gasoline is an excellent time for individuals to look into alternative transportation,” Brudlos said, suggesting that students try busing, biking or walking.

Jason Toews, co-founder of twincitiesgasprices.com, said gas prices are the highest since May. According to the Web site, the highest price for a gallon of gas Sunday in the Twin Cities was $2.02.

In May, the average price for one gallon was $2.14 in the Twin Cities. But gas prices leveled off during the summer to approximately $1.78 to $1.84 per gallon on average.

Price spikes

Spiking gas prices can be attributed to many reasons, but Toews said crude oil – oil extracted directly from soil – is the major factor driving prices higher. Crude oil prices account for approximately 45 percent of the cost for a gallon of gas.

Prices are also higher because of increasing demand for gas in the United States. It’s also happening around the world.

China’s usage has increased 20 percent this quarter compared to last year at this time, Toews said. Considering that China has the world’s largest population, higher gas demand has a huge impact, Toews said.

The price per barrel of crude oil neared $53 Thursday as the market reacted to a possible strike in Nigeria, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Less than two years ago, one barrel cost $17, Toews said.

Prices were also negatively affected, the report said, because hurricanes have slowed oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil supplies from Iraq also are not increasing because of terrorist attacks, Toews said.

Meanwhile, all countries that belong to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – except Nigeria – are producing at full capacity, and Saudi Arabia has little to spare, Toews said.

Oil pricing includes marketing, oil company profit, transporting gas and taxes, Toews said.

Another contributing factor is Minnesota law, which requires retailers to make 8 cents profit per gallon, Toews said.

Gas prices fluctuate all over the metro area, Toews said, because of zone pricing. A company sets a station’s price based on which zone a station is in.

Other effects

Though some students’ wallets are thinner because of paying higher gas prices, the University’s bussing system is not feeling the same effects.

Parking and Transportation Services has a pair of long-term contracts; one with First Student for the campus shuttle bus system and another with Metro Transit for the U-Pass program, Brudlos said.

One contract locks gas prices for the campus shuttle buses and makes providers pay more.

However, it’s different for Metro Transit.

Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said in an e-mail that it budgeted $1.20 per gallon of fuel for September but had to pay $1.47. That pushed the budget over by $348,000.

But the $200 million Metro Transit budget minimizes the effect. It just has to carefully adjust spending in nonservice areas, Gibbons wrote in an e-mail.

Brudlos said University Fleet Services, which oversees 830 University vehicles, is managing gas costs with new vehicles.

The service ordered six of the Toyota Prius, a hybrid that uses less gas, Brudlos said. When they arrive, the University will have 10 hybrid vehicles, she said.

The service has 40 vehicles using E85 gasoline, Brudlos said. E85 gasoline has 85 percent ethanol, which is cheaper and cleaner for the environment. Approximately 20,000 gallons of E85 are used annually, Brudlos said.

Living with prices

Mullenmaster, a first-year fisheries and wildlife student, said he’ll still drive, even if prices continue increasing.

“Compared to what other countries have to pay, it’s still a lower cost (here),” he said.

University student Laura Delmore said she drives approximately 25 miles when commuting, but higher prices do not bother her.

“It’s kind of what you got to do,” she said. “They’re high, so I guess I pay more.”

Delmore, a College of Liberal Arts student, said more price hikes would not bother her.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.