- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Christopher Braun has given up Sunday brunches at his favorite Annapolis crab house, Anu Kumar now thinks twice before making her usual weekend trips to New York, and Louis Walker has traded in his conversion van for a small truck.
That is the price local commuters are paying for rising gasoline prices.
"The prices are way too high. It's ridiculous," said Mr. Braun, of Burtonsville, who was pumping gas yesterday at an Exxon station on New York Avenue in Northeast."I'm not going where I used to go out, and I'm cutting back on traveling. I would come down to D.C. and go out, but not anymore."
The price of gasoline rose nearly 3 cents a gallon this week to $1.71 nationwide, 0.1 cent below the record reached in May 2001.
It was the 12th increase in 13 weeks, the Energy Department said yesterday in a weekly report.
The average nationwide price for a gallon of regular-grade gasoline in the week that ended yesterday was up 2.6 cents from the previous week and up 48.9 cents, or 40 percent, from $1.22 a year earlier, government data showed.
Pump prices rose after a strike in Venezuela the fourth-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States hobbled the petroleum industry. Refiners were forced to pay more for alternative supplies and passed along the higher costs to consumers.
Speculation that a war with Iraq would disrupt shipments from the Middle East also boosted crude-oil prices, which reached a 12-year high last week. The Persian Gulf pumps about a third of the world's oil.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which produces about a third of the world's oil, will meet today to consider increasing production and suspending output quotas in the event of a U.S.-led war with Iraq.
OPEC can pump an additional 3 million to 4 million barrels of oil a day, and members are prepared to exhaust the spare production capacity if a war seriously disrupts exports from the Persian Gulf, said OPEC President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah.
Meanwhile, consumers have been receiving e-mails from an unknown sender urging them to boycott Exxon Mobil stations to help drive down the price of gasoline.
Exxon Mobil Corp. spokeswoman Prem Nair said yesterday that such mass e-mailing is typical when prices rise.
"All kinds of sources affect the price of gasoline, so it's impossible to say that the boycott of one oil company will bring down the price," she said. "We see mass e-mails like this pop up every time gas prices hit an unbearable level, but no massive boycott has ever resulted, and I don't think it would bring the results people want."
While OPEC decides what to do with oil production, the rising prices are forcing commuters in the Washington metropolitan area to cut back on the time they spend behind the wheel, or simply trade in their wheels.
Mr. Walker, a salesman from Riverdale who had been paying $40 to fill his tank, said he traded in his van for a small truck. He now spends about $25 for a full tank of gasoline every day. "You just have to do what you have to do," he said as he stood outside a Citgo station on New York Avenue in Northeast. "You just have to keep living."
Jack Giove, 74, of New Carrollton, says he doesn't go out as much as he used to, not even to the grocery store.
"I try to consolidate to save trips and save gas money," Mr. Giove said outside a Safeway in Greenbelt.
For Frank Brunson, a financial consultant from Alexandria, the increasing cost of gas has changed the way he conducts business.
Mr. Brunson, who spends most of his day traveling from his office in Falls Church to businesses in the area, said he now tries to do more business over the telephone, or drives to offices that are closer to him.
"It's killing me," Mr. Brunson, 50, said of the cost increase. "It's eating me alive."
Others have resorted to more traditional methods of battling rising gas costs.
For his commute from his home in Cheltenham to his job at Modell's Sporting Goods in Greenbelt, Ricardo Robinson, 18, said he has found a temporary method of saving gas.
"I try to commute with my mom in the morning, so I can save some of my gas money and she can spend hers," he said.
Others are turning to public transportation.
"This is just more reason for me not to drive," said Alex Marsden, 37, of Springfield. "I initially got fed up with the traffic and the parking. Now we're talking about an extra $10 a week for gas."
Many commuters say they will start walking or bicycling to work as winter turns to spring.
"I'll give them 30 more cents and that's it," said Sterling Jackson, who was pumping at the Citgo gas station on New York Avenue in Northeast. "Then just buy me a bike."
Some motorists are reconsidering summer road trips. They say they will fly or take a train to their vacation spots instead.
"It would have to probably be a consideration," said Lori Naydock, 48, of Springfield, who was pumping gasoline at the Crystal City Exxon on Route 1. "If you are driving 1,000 miles across the country and paying $3 a gallon, that can add up."
Miss Kumar, who drives from Bethesda to the University of Maryland in College Park every day, said she may have to forget about more trips to New York.
"It's a 300-mile trip," she said as she filled up at a College Park Exxon on Route 1. "So I have to think about it."
Matthew Cella, Jeff Barnes and Marguerite Higgins contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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