- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

One resident drives miles out of his way to save a few dimes on a tank of gasoline. Another grits her teeth and pays anyway. Still another finds his weekly gas bill doubled after he has bought a new car. Now he takes cabs when he can to save money.
Desperate measures, alternatives and frustration are the result of rising fuel prices in the Washington area, where gas prices have climbed 20 percent in the past month, topping $1.70 a gallon in some areas.
"It's outrageous," said D.C. resident Bryan Mclain, who "purposely drives on empty" to Virginia for cheaper gas for his cherry Pontiac Grand Am. "It's gone up way too much in such a short period of time. I don't think I am going to be making as many road trips this summer because of it."
Mr. Mclain said he saved 16 cents a gallon for regular gas by driving to the Woodbridge Texaco to pump gas yesterday.
The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in the Washington area is $1.48 in Virginia, $1.51 in Maryland and $1.55 in the District 36 cents more than six weeks ago. In some places, the cost of a gallon of premium gas is nearing $2.
The four-week jump beats the previous record set April 23, 2001, when the price increased 21.5 cents, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. The agency started monitoring gasoline prices across the nation every week in 1990. The prices are based on surveys the agency does at gas stations.
Industry experts have blamed the price increases on tensions in the Middle East, greater demand for fuel as the economy picks up and the approach of the summer driving season. Meanwhile, the production of crude oil the natural resource in gasoline has not increased to meet demand. Petroleum supplies are further threatened by violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the risk of a U.S. attack on Iraq and labor protests by Venezuelan oil workers.
Some local consumers interviewed at the region's pumps said they hadn't noticed or didn't care about rising gas prices.
Carolyn Berry of Chevy Chase said it hasn't affected her driving habits "at all."
D.C. resident Lele Whitmer was refueling her Mercedes in Arlington and said she didn't want to know about price jumps.
"I need gas and need to get somewhere, and that is that," she said.
But most motorists lamented the days of cheaper gas during an era that wasn't so long ago.
Ivan Galysh of Fairfax Station drives to Woodbridge to save 6 cents per gallon for his SUV because since retiring, he has "to watch the dollar a little more."
"We have been holding off taking long-range trips," he said. "I use my [Saturn] more these days, too. Help."
On a trip from Albany, N.Y., to visit family, school administrator Leo Guelpa stopped in Arlington to refuel his rented truck. He says rising fuel prices didn't affect his decision to take a trip, but he can't wait to get back to cheap-gas-state New Jersey to refuel.
"It's discouraging because it seems the time we want to take a vacation always parallels gas increases," he said. "We just can't go on vacation anytime."
Many residents with larger cars, such as Anthony James of Southeast, said they use their smaller cars to travel when fuel prices rise. Mr. James drives a Range Rover and a Cadillac.
Andrew Corson, a student at George Washington University, along with Mariano Ramirez of American University fueled Mr. Corson's new Volvo convertible in Georgetown yesterday and complained about gas prices.
"It used to cost me about $12 to fill up," said Mr. Corson. "Now it is about $30 to $40."
The difference, he said, is the new car, which only takes premium $1.76 per gallon at the Georgetown Exxon on M Street.
"I knew this was going to be an issue, but I bought the car anyway," he said. "So now I sometimes take cabs when I am going out instead of driving. It comes out cheaper."
Gaithersburg resident and single parent Vicky Paton said she has no choice. She spent almost $30 filling up her newer model Mercedes.
"I have two children. I have to drive to school in Potomac and Washington every day," she said. "I spend more than an hour driving each day. It eats away at my budget. But I have no choice."

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