As the nation’s average price for a gallon of gas hit $3.65 Friday – the highest ever for this time of year – those locally say they’re noticing a dent in their wallets.
“It’s affected me in every way,” Jan Williamson said, as she filled up her car at the East Frankfort Kroger.
“It’s given me less money to spend on everything. I have to change my budget on food, on travel … and how much I’m going to heat my home.”
The average price for a gallon of gas Friday in Kentucky was also $3.65, according to AAA. That’s nine cents higher thanThursday, 17 cents higher than a week ago and 35 cents more than this time last month.
Prices throughout Frankfort hovered around that average Friday, with prices ranging from $3.59 to $3.89 for a gallon of regular gas.
Commuters say they’re especially feeling the jump in prices.
James Thompson said the higher prices have “made it rougher” traveling from his home in Frankfort to his job in Georgetown, and Cassie Trueblood, who lives in Louisville but commutes to the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board in Frankfort, said she’s concerned she’ll have to make some changes to her budget.
“If we hit $4, what I eat will make a difference,” Trueblood said, as she filled up at Kroger. “I definitely won’t be eating out as much.”
Analysts are saying that the question of “if” has turned into a “when,” as many say the national average for a gallon of gas will likely hit $4.25 by Memorial Day, and some say it can pass the $4 mark as early as April.
But why the higher prices? Don’t look at the gas station owners.
“That’s from the market,” said Sody Singh, manager of the BP gas station off Wilkinson Boulevard on Fair Oaks Lane. “I’m just a small fish.”
Singh says every weekday at 6 p.m. he checks the closing price of a barrel of oil on the New York Stock Exchange, and then talks to a “wholesaler,” a gas distributor that he’s designated to go through by BP.
“(The wholesalers) enter the price everyday after 6 o’clock and say, ‘Here’s where you base your price. If you don’t, you will lose money,’” Singh said.
And sometimes that happens, Singh said. His station only makes about seven cents from each gallon of gas sold.
“People think we are making money,” Singh said. “We are not making money.”
Others are blaming President Obama for the high gas prices.
In the past week, Republican presidential candidates have attacked Obama’s energy policies and hesitancy toward drilling on American soil, and Thompson said he’ll be keeping gas prices in mind when he heads to the polls in November.
“I’m hoping to get somebody in there to get this gas under control,” he said, while filling up at Kroger Friday.
Some have called on the Obama administration to release more oil from emergency stockpiles in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but analysts say that would be ineffective.
The government tried that last summer after the Libyan uprising forced that country’s oil fields to shut down. Prices dipped slightly, but they eventually rebounded and are now close to last year’s peak.
Analysts say the real reason why gas prices are so high comes from Iran.
Western nations fear Iran is building a nuclear weapon and have been trying to force it to open its facilities to inspection. Iran has refused, turning away international inspectors last week for the second time this month.
As tensions rise, investors are snapping up oil contracts in anticipation of a protracted standoff with one of the world’s top oil exporters.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose Friday by $1.42 to $109.26 per barrel in New York. Brent crude rose by $1.28 to $124.90 per barrel in London.
Law enforcement is also feeling the pain at the pump, said Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton, although he’s not surprised at the prices.
Melton asked Fiscal Court in December for $120,000 in gasoline expenses for his 2012 budget, a big jump from the $70,000 allotted to the office in 2011.
That’s because he and his administrative director Craig Blanton did their homework, Melton said.
“We had started talking about gas prices early on,” Melton told The State Journal. “We mentioned (in the budget meeting with Fiscal Court in December) that gas would be going up to $4.25 a gallon.”
Now that gas prices are expected to get that high, Melton said he hopes the budget increase will help his office, although most of his deputies still remain concerned.
“All of the guys complain every time they fill up, just like everybody in the community,” Melton said. “We’re watching and trying to conserve as much as we can … but we’re 24 hours, seven days a week, and we have obligatory functions we’ve got to carry out.”
That’s the attitude some consumers, like Anderson County resident Steve Vallance, also have toward the higher gas prices.
“I prefer they be cheaper,” said Vallance, who works in Frankfort, while filling up at Kroger.
“But regardless to the price of gasoline, I’m still going to buy gasoline. I’m still going to drive.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report