The Garden City Telegram
3/6/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Fuel fury

Everyone feels pain when gas prices soar.

Motorists aren't the only ones hurt by high fuel prices.

The pain at the pump hinders businesses, school districts, farmers and others who rely on significant quantities of fuel every day.

Locally, regular unleaded gas hovered around $3.67. The Kansas average was $3.65 Tuesday, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report, up slightly from $3.62 a year ago.

The cost of crude and timing don't help.

Experts point to a blend of high crude oil prices and refinery shutdowns as factors in pushing gas prices in the wrong direction. Most of the cost of a gallon of gas (an estimated 70 percent) is driven by the price of crude.

When refineries close for maintenance in the winter, the temporary drop in gas supply becomes another factor.

That said, higher prices have been nagging consumers for some time. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012 was one of the worst years for the amount of money households spent on fuel — an average of $2,912. Only 2008 was worse because of tight supplies, a volatile marketplace and strong demand.

And if there's ever to be long-term relief, a goal has to be finding ways to slow demand. Too many Americans still pull up to the pump in gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and trucks, then complain about the cost. Such vehicles continue to be among the most popular sellers for car dealers.

While business at our local dealerships always is welcome, it would help to see manufacturers and consumers alike get on track toward more fuel-efficient vehicles. Converting more vehicle fleets to the use of abundant natural gas would be another sensible move toward lowering costs.

In the end, excessive demand that drives higher gas prices ends up penalizing those who can afford it the least. Too often, poor Americans must choose between fuel and food as gas prices soar.

Knowing higher costs of fuel ultimately must be passed on by businesses, it's easy to see how far-reaching the impact of soaring fuel can be — and how it promises to trickle down to every consumer, regardless of whether they have a need to fill up.