Residents get double-whammy on costs right at Christmas

Published 4:13 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When it rains, it pours!

Pearl River County residents wrestled this week with surging prices for sewage service and for gasoline. First, there were higher utility charges from the Pearl River County Utility Authority, and then, as if that wasn’t enough, gasoline prices jumped 20 cents per gallon on average in a matter of days, much more in this area than was the surge in gasoline prices nationally.

Residents of Picayune and Poplarville got the double-whammy of higher sewage prices and higher gasoline prices as they prepared to face the Christmas shopping season, when expenses automatically rise for most families.

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Gasoline prices took an approximately eight percent jump locally almost overnight.

On Oct. 20, gas was selling at RaceTrac on Memorial Boulevard near Walmart for $2.58.9 per gallon, but on Tuesday it was selling for $2.78.9 per gallon. Walmart next door had the same price along with Bill’s Quick Stop at East Canal and Hwy. 43 South.

The price had dipped slightly below $2.58.9, moved up gradually, and then in a two-day period jumped the remaining eight percent.

Where RaceTrac and Walmart are located, there is a cluster of seven gas stations at Exit 4 on Interstate 59 at its intersection with Mississippi Highway 43 South, or Memorial Boulevard.

RaceTrac and Walmart always have the lowest gas prices in Pearl River County.

Other posted prices at Exit 4 included $2.81.9 at Exxon, Shell and Chevron and $2.80.9 at K&T Fuel at the Memorial Boulevard and East Jerusalem intersection.

Chevron at Exit 6 was $2.81.9, and Circle D at the intersection of Mississippi Highway 26 and U.S. Highway 11 at Poplarville was $2.84.9, while Kangaroo at Miss. Hwys. 26 and 53 was $2.79.9.

Mickey’s No. 1 was $2.80.9 at 43 and 11, K&T Texaco at Richardson-Ozona Road and Hwy. 11 North was $2.81.9 and Mickey’s No. 2 was $2.80.9.

Some experts who keep tabs on gasoline prices said that by Christmas day gas could be selling for $3 a gallon. Already diesel here was posted right at $3 a gallon by most stations.

Various reasons were given for the quick, and unexpected, jump in gasoline prices.

Most experts said a jump in crude oil prices caused the surge in at-the-pump prices. A barrel of oil jumped last week from $81 per barrel to $89 a barrel. They did not say specifically why the price per barrel jumped other than speculation on the commodity markets.

Overall, industry watchers said that the national average for a gallon of regular jumped almost four cents a gallon in a two week period, putting the average of self-serve regular at a national average of $2.91 per gallon. On Monday, however, The Associated Press reported the national average price per gallon at $2.958.

That is 10 cents higher than a week ago and about 32 cents higher than last year.

Gas prices here and in the Southeast jumped last week much more than the national average increase. Prices here jumped about 20 cents per gallon.

Reuters wire service reported that the jump along the Gulf Coast might have had something to do with a downed unit in the Chevron Pascagoula Refinery that reputedly produces 330,000 barrels a day, and a drop in production at the plant has been known to affect gasoline prices.

However, officials at the plant remained tight-lipped concerning any problems there, and would not speak to the press about it.

Prices toward the end of last week jumped all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula, and fringe areas to the north, including Picayune and Poplarville.

Experts said the price move occurred from Tuesday to Wednesday of last week.

Experts said that surveys showed that gasoline was 28 cents per gallon higher than what surveys showed last December.

Surveys showed the lowest per gallon price in Denver at $2.61 and the highest on Long Island, N.Y., at $3.21.

The average price per gallon in other cities around the country were:

Albuquerque $2.75, Atlanta $2.84, Baltimore $2.90, Chicago $3.09, Miami $2.96, Minneapolis $3.03, Philadelphia $3.02 and Portland $2.99.

Prices are the highest they have been in two years, The Associated Press reported.

Based on the recent jumps, motorists who use about 20 gallons per week will be paying about $20 more per month for gasoline.

The National Oil Price Information service told the AP that Christmas Day in the U.S. has never seen $3 per gallon gas, that gas is now the highest since October, 2008, and if the price per barrel lingers near $90, it could hit $3 before the end of the year.

Stephen Schork, publisher of The Schork Report, told the AP, “We’re within spitting distance right now. Whether we get there by the end of the year or by the end of January, as far as consumers are concerned, we’re there already by a psychological standpoint.”

For every penny the price at the pump increases, U.S. consumers pay an additional $4 million, according to Cameron Hanover, an energy analysis agency, the AP reported.

The 10-cent a gallon increase from a week ago cost consumers about $40 million. On an individual basis, a motorist who bought 10 gallons of gas on Monday, on average, paid about $3.20 more than a year ago, the AP reported.

Schork expects energy demand to waver with prices between $2.90 a gallon and $3 a gallon. If oil reaches $100 a barrel, retail gas prices will be around $3.30 a gallon or higher, which would be a “significant obstacle” for motorists, Schork said.