Drivers try to cope as gas prices climb

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2004

Citizens' reactions range from anger to helplessness over skyrocketing gas prices and many businesses are feeling the impact of what some are calling the "gas crisis of 2004."

Chuck Rice, public affairs and corporate communications director for Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, said oil futures topped $41 per barrel, causing a surge in gasoline supplies that will drive up prices at the retail level.

"Crude oil prices and taxes are the two largest factors," Rice said.

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Keeping five vans on the road daily for servicing and installation is proving costly for TNT Heating and Cooling located in Chesapeake.

"It's more than $500 a month in gas. And it's not just that - our equipment costs on sheet metal and wood have drastically risen," said owner Tom Jones.

"I think it's flat out greed from higher-up," Jones said. On a temporary basis, the company began charging $6 for local service calls. "We absorbed the cost when gas was $1.50, but at $2

it's impossible."

Johnnie Scragg, owner of Village Floral and Gift Shop of Proctorville, also thinks gas costs are a result of greed.

"Some are making millions and we're struggling to try and make it," she said.

Keeping the shop's two vans going has doubled.

"About anything we do is delivery. This (situation) even raises the price of flowers. Growers have the same problem and they had to raise their cost to cover fuel costs and it's handed right on down the line," she said.

"We haven't raised our prices yet, but we're considering it. If we have to, we'll lower them when gas goes back down," Scragg said.

Dan McDavid, the South Point Board of Education's treasurer,

said it is a blessing that there are not many school days left because bus transportation is something the schools' must provide.

"From everything I've read and heard, it doesn't look like relief is in sight. Hopefully by autumn, prices will fall," McDavid said.

The Pizza Point restaurant opened its doors in South Point about two months ago. The fledgling business offers free food delivery and has lunchtime and evening catering runs. Employees said gas prices are creating a ripple effect on the business.

"Dairy products have risen - cheese prices have doubled. When you are starting a new business that offers free delivery, these gas prices make it harder to make any kind of profit," owner Jeremy Henderson said.

An internet e-mail chain letter in circulation that seems to have originated in Washington D.C. by a man named Ricardo D. Greenwell is asking people not to purchase any gasoline on Wednesday for a "stick it up their behind day."

"Waiting on this administration to step in and control the prices is not going to happen. … We can make a difference. If they don't get the message after one day we will do it again and again," the e-mail stated.

Chesapeake gas station cashier Tressa Stewart said, "I see people coming in here with a dollar to pay for gas-it's pitiful."