Local News

State Powerless To Stop Rising Gas Prices

Posted May 10, 2004

— These days, the price to fill up a car's gas tank can make your jaw drop, but state officials say they are basically powerless to stop it.

Officials say the average cost of gas at Triangle pumps is $1.82 for regular, $1.92 for mid-grade and $2.02 for premium. With prices gushing out of control, some people said state government should try to do something.

"I do think they need to because if the price is like this, people are not going to be able to afford to even go to work," driver Stephanie Benson said.

"We started carpooling more," driver Thomas Pope said. "I just try not to look at the price."

The Attorney General's Office of Consumer Affairs said it gets complaints all the time, but they do not regulate gas prices. They suggest shopping around for the best prices.

"The only thing that I know of that the state can do is to work on things like the proposed ethanol plant down east," said state Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Oxford, who sits on the House transportation committee. "There is some diesel fuels that can be made from soybeans and, of course, ethanol from corn."

OPEC oil ministers say they may soon increase production, which could eventually cut the price at the pump.

The summer travel season is not the only thing pushing up gas prices. The Triangle is one of 12 urban areas the Environmental Protection Agency says must switch to a low evaporation gas for the summer. It is designed to cut down on ozone pollution.

In 1950, a gallon of gas cost the equivalent of $1.88. Prices bottomed out at $1.50 in 1972, before spiking at a whopping inflation-adjusted $2.81 in 1981. They dipped to $1.20 in 1998 and have been on the way up ever since.

Less than half of what you pay for a gallon of gas depends on the price of oil. The cost of crude oil makes up 46 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas. Nineteen percent covers refining costs. Distribution and marketing charges make up 11 percent. The remaining 24 percent is where consumers pay all the taxes.

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