Mike Siroub, who has operated a Union Oil station in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia for 25 years, said customers who used to fill up their tanks now put in just $10 or $20 at a time, telling him that that’s all they can afford and that they are driving less or using more fuel-efficient cars.
He himself has joined them.
“I used to have a car with a big V-8 engine,” he said. “I traded it for a four-cylinder Toyota Camry.”
Among the things the government can do to bring prices down is reduce gasoline taxes or push to get more fuel-efficient cars on the road. The first new fuel standards since 1990 are just now going into effect, and the U.S. auto fleet is now more efficient than ever
People are still feeling the pain.
“When I go out to change the prices, they honk their horns and yell at me,” said Siroub whose station’s cheapest grade of gas, regular unleaded, was selling for $4.44 a gallon earlier this week. “The other day one person even gave me the finger.”
In New York City, some cab drivers say the high cost of gas is prompting them to race through the streets of Manhattan even more recklessly than usual to pick up more passengers during a shift.
“When the gas is up, the money you make is going down,” said Less Sylla, who paid $4.17 a gallon earlier this week. “You see a lot of drivers, they’re driving, boom-boom-boom, because the lease is too high and it’s working on their minds. So that’s why they go like that, and it causes a lot of accidents.”
Sylla, who said he will vote for Obama, blames greedy oil companies.
In Anchorage, Alaska, general contractor W.M. Lewis said he has had to raises his prices to keep his half-dozen trucks running. “It affects your bottom-line pricing,” he said as he put $90.13 worth of gas, at $4.25 a gallon, into one of those trucks.
Milton Walker Jr., whose Louisiana tour company takes vacationers on boat rides through the alligator-infested swamps, said he raised prices last year because of the increased cost of fuel and will do it again if gas hits $5 a gallon. He blames the Federal Reserve, saying it hasn’t kept inflation in check.
“I don’t think it matters who’s president,” he said.
Shrimpers in Louisiana and lobstermen in Maine complain that high fuel prices are cutting into their profits. Craig Rogers, who burns through 50 gallons of gas a day tending his lobster traps along Maine’s rocky coast, blames commodities traders, though he questions whether politicians are doing enough. He said politicians are too well off to really grasp what ordinary people are going through.
“They can say they feel for us, they can say they understand us, but when you have that kind of money, there’s no way you can truly understand what we’re feeling,” he said.
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