Gas prices push to the $4 a gallon mark |

Gas prices push to the $4 a gallon mark

MIKE McKIBBINRifle CorrespondentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE Kirk Swallow pays the same prices as a gasoline distributor that everyone else in Western Garfield County pays.But his frustration may be higher, since his business profits for Swallow Oil Co. are shrinking as the price at the pump goes up, including a 25- to 30-cent jump last week over the previous week.Ive never seen this in petroleum marketing, Swallow said. We run four or five (truck) loads (of gasoline to stations from Eagle to Parachute to Aspen) a day, at a cost of $35,000 a day.Swallow said his profit margin is down to 5 percent this year, compared to 11 percent two years ago.Its the commodity traders jerking the price of oil around and it just doesnt seem right, he said. The producers arent to blame.Last week, motorists reported gas was 15 cents higher in Rifle compared to Silt.Swallow said each retail station sets its own prices.You have other places like Grand Junction, where the City Markets and Bradleys can sell at cost, he said. New Castle and Silt are usually fairly equal, but its cheaper with the Kum & Gos. Glenwood Springs and Rifle are usually similar.

Eric Escudero with the Colorado Triple-A Auto Club said gas prices in some smaller communities are higher in part due to transportation costs and a lack of competition.In Denver, you have a gas station on about every corner, he said.Higher real estate costs in some mountain communities also factor in to those gas prices, Escudero said.It just costs more to live in beautiful places, he said.For Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, the more his deputies have to pay for gas to patrol county roads, the more money will have to be taken from elsewhere.It just bites into the general fund that we could use for other things, he said. We put a lot of miles on our cars and use a lot of gas.Vallario said since his department is currently short five positions, so not all vehicles are used.Weve looked at things like car pooling, but with deputies all over the county, thats really as a last resort, he said.New facilities in Rifle and Battlement Mesa will help deputies do their paperwork without having to drive to Glenwood Springs and save on gas, Vallario said.It just seems to be like everything else, he said of ever-rising gas prices. Theres no end in sight. We cant not patrol the roads, so well just adjust our budget.Swallow said a large increase in the worldwide demand for oil, a shortage of diesel fuel in this region of the country and other factors all contribute to higher pump prices that hit everyones wallet.Colorados statewide average price of $3.63 a gallon on May 12 was lower than 33 other states, Escudero said.Motorists may not be able to control how much they pay per gallon, but they can make sure they use gas efficiently. Escudero said motorists should regularly check their tire pressure, change the vehicles air filter and make sure it has regular maintenance.With the start of the summer travel season less than two weeks away on Memorial Day, May 26, Escudero said its also traditionally when the highest gas prices of the year have appeared at the pump.Gas refiners make a summer blend thats more environmentally friendly, too, he said, but its also more expensive than the winter gas blend.Swallow said he often has to buy gasoline in bulk for the next days delivery to stations at prices that change at 4 p.m. the day before.If this continues, were stuck, he said. The producers and the big guys are the only ones making a profit. Were not, and the gas stations arent either. Its just pretty ugly all the way around.

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