Residents feel pressure at pump

Alisa Boswell

Rising gas prices are tough on everyone.

There is Norma Vallejo of Portales, who drives a lot for her job in home health care. She recently found herself borrowing gas money from a friend just to get by.

“I think it’s getting worse,” Vallejo said. “Every day, I look at the gas prices and it’s going up and up. I hope it goes down.”

And there is Andrew Hersey of Clovis, who said gas prices were hurting his family’s finances when they had two large vehicles. They replaced one with a smaller car. The better mileage has helped. But he said he is dreading summer, when some experts predict prices could hit $4 a gallon.

“It’s just so expensive,” Hersey said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better.”

The rising cost of gas is tough on everyone, whether business owner or consumer, according to C&S Inc. fuel company owner Mike Stratton.

“These speculators on the New York Mercantile Exchange are running these prices up and it hurts the economy more,” Stratton said, “because in most cases, our wages aren’t going up.”

Stratton said the Merc prices jump because of uneasiness about tensions in Saudi Arabia and Libya, two of the major sources for petroleum in the U.S. But he believes their speculations are “unbridled” and too drastic.

“The oil companies have to buy a huge amount of their products from the commodities exchange,” Stratton said. “Everyone in this business is having to pay higher prices and no one likes it.”

Stratton said Friday morning he received a new shipment of fuel and it was 11 cents a gallon higher than a shipment the previous day.

“When this happened three years ago,” he said, “it was really hard on all of us and none of us want to see this happen again. I think it’s really going to hurt people.”

Stratton said what he fears most is the possibility of gas topping $4 a gallon.

He said he believes if the government would open up the U.S. to more drilling, many gas price issues would be resolved.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said tensions in the Middle East and the economy slowly improving in the U.S. are the main reasons gas prices have been rising.

DeHaan said the economy improving makes for a higher demand for petroleum due to people traveling more for vacations, jobs and social activity, so with the summer traveling season approaching, there will likely be no decrease in prices. He said the only thing that will make gas prices increase more than 20 cents is if tensions overseas get worse, but he does not believe they will.

“In December, I had anticipated gas prices reaching between $3.65 and $4.05 by Labor Day,” DeHaan said. “But now with the way things are, I don’t believe New Mexico will reach a $4 a gallon average.”

Craig Scotton, senior director of petroleum services for Stripes, said his company cannot share exact numbers of how they’re business is affected by fuel prices until the end of their fiscal quarter in March.

“It is difficult for us just like it is for consumers when prices go up,” Scotton said. “When prices are going up, people will cut back, which means they don’t come to the store as much.”

He said on weekdays, his company is paying a different price for fuel every day because of changes in oil prices in the Commodities Futures Market.