Starting to feel the squeeze

Rising gas prices hit area visitors, residents in the wallet

LAKE COUNTY – Literally overnight, gasoline prices in Michigan suddenly jumped, bringing the statewide average for a gallon of unleaded gas to $4.06.

In Lake County, however, that price would seem like a deal.

Of the five gas stations surveyed in Lake County, all them are selling unleaded gas a $4.15 per gallon, with the Shell station located at 1210 Michigan Avenue being one cent more expensive, at $4.16 per gallon.

On March 27, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report showed an average of $3.97 - a bump from the $3.69 average of one month ago. At its current statewide average, Michigan has the 11th most expensive average for gas in the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Analysts believe that the price is expected to keep going up during the month of April.

What do local residents think about the price hike?

“Horrible,” said Greg Nichols, of Baldwin, when asked his thoughts on gas prices.

The suddenness of the jump is what troubles Baldwin resident Brian Bartram. At the Wesco where he was pumping gas at 777 Michigan Ave., the price started Tuesday morning at $3.98 per gallon and by Tuesday afternoon, the price had risen 17 cents to its current level on $4.15.

“Why did it jump up so much, so quickly?” he said. “It shouldn’t be like that. In a situation like this, everybody suffers.”

As for any summer travel plans, Nichols said they are non-existent with prices this high.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m only going to work now to pay for the next week’s gas.”

With gas prices in Lake County pretty consistent, finding relief is tough for Bartram.

“Meijer has gas for five cents cheaper,” he said as pumped his gasoline with chatting with Nichols. “But you have to drive 30 miles to Big Rapids to save five cents? It’s not worth it.”

James Thomas of Detroit, one of Lake County’s many seasonal residents, said that it’s more a societal problem.

“We live in a society where the rich and the powerful make the rules and whether you like or not, you don’t have a voice to change them,” Thomas said. “I’m like everybody else, I hate (gas prices) but what can you do?”

A recent poll conducted by Reuters reveal that 68 percent of Americans blame President Barack Obama for his handling of gas prices, though the poll suggests most do not blame him personally.

“It’s not all his fault,” Nichols said. “But I think there’s something he can do. He should raise taxes or put a cap on (gas prices). Just do something.”

Like many other Americans, Nichols blames the oil companies.

“It’s all (the oil companies) fault,” he said. “They’re turning billion dollar profits while everybody else struggles. It’s not right.”

Thomas said the effect on his pocketbook will take a toll on his summer plans, whether the trip is short or long-distance.

“I can’t go as far as I’d like,” he said. “Gas costs money and when the price goes up, the money has to come from somewhere and that effects what else you can do.”