Pa. Drives Toward $4 Gas

Hazleton Standard Speaker

The price of premium gasoline surpassed $4 per gallon at some area gas stations and analysts say consumers could pay up to $4.25 per gallon in the spring.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, gas prices are hitting an all-time February high and Pennsylvania is expected to be the biggest hot spot for gas prices in coming months.

On Friday, the average price of gas in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area was $3.72 per gallon, up from $3.65 a week ago, $3.52 a month ago and $3.24 a year ago.

AAA officials said tightened sources of supply could spike the price of gas per gallon to $4.25 per gallon in the spring, as much as a dollar higher than what it costs in the Midwest.

Two Philadelphia area refineries are idled, affecting East Coast supplies. The situation could worsen as a third refinery, a Sunoco facility in Philadelphia, is set to close July 1 is no buyer is found, they said.

“That is a big source of crude oil for the Northeast,” said Jana Tidwell, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “If that source is idled, then we’ll see gas prices, especially in Pennsylvania, continue to rise perhaps longer than prices will rise throughout the rest of the country.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Jenny M. Robinson said the next 60 days will prove extremely volatile for gas prices in the state following the idling of the two Philadelphia area refineries and the threat of another closure this summer as high crude costs cut into refineries’ profit margins.

“This does not bode well for motorists who have already had to deal with two months of record-setting as prices to start the year,” Robinson said.

Various other factors contributed to recent gas price spikes, including high demand overseas, making up for much lower demand in the United States which is down 6.4 percent; Iran threatening to cut off exports to part of Europe and economic changes happening in Europe, AAA officials said.

A refinery fire in Washington also is boosting prices significantly throughout the West Coast and areas of the East Coast, said senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan. He warned motorists should be aware that a sharp rise in gasoline prices is likely over the next few days and throughout the weekend in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.

“I expect stations to increase prices as much as 5 to 20 cents per gallon by the conclusion of the weekend with some stations starting to rise prices immediately,” DeHaan said.

Many people who need to travel are scrambling to rework already tight budgets.

Saundra Colon, 23, of Hazleton, who stopped Sunday at Fuel On, Drums, where regular gas was $3.79, said it would take $70 to fuel her sport utility vehicle, an automobile that makes it safer and easier to travel with her baby.

Colon had a job in Wilkes-Barre but had to quit it because she wasn’t making enough money there to cover daycare expenses and the rising price of gas.

“It’s horrible,” she said.

Bill McDaniel, manager of Safari Plaza, state Route 309, Drums, said high gas prices are also hurting gas stations because people are driving less.

With its proximity to Interstate 80, the station usually see’s a lot of business year round.

Not so this year, McDaniel said.

“It’s killing my job,” he said.

McDaniel said Democrats and Republicans need to work together to resolve the high price on gas.

“It would be great if they would open the reserves and actually share our oil with us,” he said.

Paul Sylvester, of Albany, N.Y., who stopped at the Fuel On near Humboldt Industrial Park on his way home from Greenville, S.C., said though the gas prices are frustrating, he doesn’t think there is much that can be done.

“They have you,” he said. “What are you going to do?”

He said despite expert projections, it’s hard to say how much higher gas prices will go.

“They predict the future like the weathermen predict weather. They’re no good at it either,” Sylvester said.

Joe Fawcett of Maryland, who was filling up at Safari Plaza in Drums on Sunday, said he hails from the West Coast and still has friends in California where gas is $5 a gallon. The rising cost has forced many to use alternate means of travel or car pool, he said.

Ryan McGrady of Mountain Top, a 22-year-old environmental studies major at King’s College, said he has cut back on travel as a result of the high gas prices, which he called “ridiculous.”

“Gas prices in general are going to start really stealing from our pockets,” he said. “With the oil prices going up and the gas prices going up, the oil companies benefit. Overall, people are going to start traveling less and other industries will suffer.”

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