HAZARD — Gasoline prices have been steadily high for several years, but have had periodic spikes of over $4 per gallon. This current spike has already put some areas of Kentucky in the $4 range, but analysts say it could go much higher.
Ever since prices jumped in 2008, the fear of $5 gas has been looming over an economically challenged nation. Much of the United States is using less gas and driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, though, according to a report by National Public Radio, that may have no effect on fuel prices.
NPR reported that gas prices are set by the global market, and as more countries become industrialized the demand for fuel is on the rise. So, despite America’s efforts to reduce the use of gasoline, prices will remain high and could go higher.
Here in Hazard, gas prices are at $3.99 for regular, but in other parts of the state it is already as high as $4.27. Nationwide, gas prices have already jumped to over $4.50 in places like Honolulu and Chicago.
Another reason that gas prices are currently seeing a spike is because many retailers switch to a summer fuel, which can sometimes cost more. According to a report by howstuffworks.com on what influences gas prices, summer grade gases burn cleaner to help cut back on the increased levels of smog in the summer. While this summer grade does not always increase gas prices it can be a factor. So as the seasons change, often the gas prices rise.
Rising gas prices can affect the bottom line of businesses and families, and some people in Hazard are already being affected. Mike Fields drives a box truck for a living, and noted while filling up at a Hazard station that it is adding up to be about $50 a day for him to work.
“Less travelling for sure,” said Fields of how the increase could affect him. “I am afraid it will affect businesses more.”
He said he is also worried about how the gas prices will affect the overall national economy.
“I am just afraid of how bad it will affect the economy,” said Fields. “Spending more on gas, they are not going to have as much to spend elsewhere.”
Lisa Smith, also while filling up in Hazard, said that gas prices are forcing her to make tough decisions on a limited budget.
“Yeah it is affecting me,” she said. “You can’t pay your bills because you know you have got to have gas to be able to get around.”
Smith said she has to stretch her budget and plan out her bill paying and groceries further ahead of time.
“It is making you get behind of everyday stuff,” she added. “It affects what you are going to eat for that month, how you are going to pay your bills. It affects your entire life.”
Gas prices are even affecting some of the cities and counties and the services they are able to offer. So far this has not been the case in Hazard, though Hazard City Manager Carlos Combs said officials in the city are working to find ways to prevent a need to reduce services.
Combs said that city workers are now starting to car pool to help reduce the amount of gas used.
“What we are trying to do is cut back, then when we go to water leaks and so forth, instead of taking several trucks we car pool,” said Combs. “If it doesn’t improve, then we may have to start parking some of our vehicles.”
Combs said that parking vehicles is not ideal, though, since many of the city vehicles are emergency response and water line repair vehicles.
“It is tough and we are not going to let it affect our services to the community and the county,” he continued. “We are going to have to do some thinking on what we are going to have to do to save some money, because times are hard.”
Although with talk of gas prices reaching $5 per gallon, Combs said they have to make the hard decisions that could affect residents unless they are able to come up with a way to save a significant amount of gas money.
“I can assure you if it gets up to $5, not only us but there is several people that are going to have to sit down and rethink what we are going to do and how we are going to do it,” he said.