October 23, 2021

Fill it up: A ‘necessary evil’

Rising gas prices no concern to some

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Royal Motors Sales Manager Cole Swartz pumps gas at the Sunoco on Route 90 in Cortlandville. For some, rising gas prices won’t affect their travel plans.

CORTLAND — Joshua Stephens filled the 21-gallon tank of his diesel Chevrolet Colorado on Tuesday at the Mobil 1 in Cortland in preparation for an 1,100-mile trek back home to Alabama.

About $70 filled the tank.

Last year at this time, $57 would have done the same. Stephens will have to bite the $70 bullet at least a couple of times on his drive.

Gasoline and diesel have been on the rise with Memorial Day and summer-like weather approaching. At the moment, the national average price for gasoline is $2.93 a gallon and the average price in New York is $3.07 a gallon. Last year the average prices were $2.36 and $2.50, respectively.

Diesel is averaging about $3.40 a gallon; compared to $2.73 last year.

Gas prices nationwide have jumped 12 cents a gallon since May 7, the American Automobile Association reports, and are their highest since 2014, climbing in part because of a White House decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran, combined with seasonal travel. The federal Energy Information Administration predicts a gradual decline for the rest of the year. Still, the price has topped $3.71 a gallon in California.

To Stephens, it is just a necessary evil.

He, his wife and their child recently made the trip to New York to visit family. You never want to pay more, he said, but the higher prices aren’t a hindrance to him. He was still going to visit family.

“It kind of stinks,” he said. “But it’s not as bad as in other countries.”

A survey this year by gasbuddy.com found fewer people will travel this year because of the rising gas prices. In the study, only 58 percent said they will take a road trip this summer, a 24 percentage point decrease from last year, while 39 percent cited high gas prices for their summer travel decisions, compared to 19 percent in 2017. However, AAA reports its survey shows 88 percent of families will take a road trip.

Stephens said his family will stay home for Memorial Day, but it is not because of gasoline prices. The trip to upstate New York was his family’s trip this year.

K.C. Mangine of Lebanon, who stopped to fill up his 2017 Jeep Cherokee on Tuesday in Cortland, also will stay home with his family for Memorial Day, but, again, not because of gasoline prices. Every year they go camping behind his house.

The rising prices are not a big concern to him, too, he said. He owns Fruit of the Fungi, delivering fresh and fried mushrooms to restaurants and distributors around the state. On average, he spends about $45 twice a week to fill up his Jeep’s tank.

He’s noticed the higher prices, but said it hasn’t changed anything for him. He hasn’t had to raise any prices because of it, yet.

Cortland resident Sue Sherman-Broyles said she didn’t even notice gas prices were surging toward $3 or more until she began fueling her 2017 Subaru Outback Tuesday morning. And when she did, she wasn’t fazed.

“You think $2.93 is high?” she said, then calling back to when gasoline prices rose above $4 a gallon during the recession in the late 2000s.

She commutes back and forth to work at Cornell University, filling her Outback weekly. Usually she’ll spend about $50 to fill it up. It is not a major concern to her.

She said she would actually like to see a higher gas tax so more money can go to fixing roads. She is tired of having to continually tighten the strap holding her kayak to the roof of her car after hitting pot holes.

Sam Weinger of Hudson Valley also hadn’t noticed the price increase until he stopped in Cortland to fuel up. He fills his 2006 Honda CR-V’s gasoline tank $10 at a time, he said.

His Honda gets about 24 miles per gallon, so the price increase isn’t bothering him, yet. But he said in a couple of years he plans on buying a new car and rising gasoline prices could play a factor in what he gets.

In the meantime though, the price increase isn’t going to change any of his traveling plans, he said.