Pain at the pump means change for US drivers

Mailman Warren Williams winced when he saw how quickly the pump ate up his twenty dollars at a downtown Chicago station charging $4.79 for a gallon (3.8 liters) of regular gasoline.

"Prices are ridiculous," said Williams, who used to spend about $100 a week filling up his sport utility vehicle and is now paying $175 to $200.

"I'm looking into a bus pass," he said.

Vehicle fuel now accounts for 8.9 percent of the average US family income, up from just 4.2 percent in April 2009.

The rapid spike in oil prices sparked by recent unrest in the Middle East is forcing Americans to tighten their belts and change their driving habits, a tough thing to do in this car-dependent country.

It also threatens to stall the country's fragile recovery from the deepest economic downturn in decades as higher fuel prices force businesses to fire workers if they can't find other ways to offset the extra costs.

Robin O'Grady has cut back on the hours she's giving her employees and is afraid she'll soon have to lay off some of them at her downtown Chicago Edible Arrangements fruit basket delivery service.

"It's sad because these are people that are either in school or else mothers with young children," she told AFP.

"I'm watching my pennies so I can keep my people employed, so I can pay my bills. I have to watch everything."

But the bills keep coming, her fuel costs keep rising, and the franchise rules do not allow O'Grady to raise prices or delivery charges.

The impact goes far beyond just filling up the tank on delivery trucks, said Michael Stolfe, who runs his family's legendary Connie's Pizza chain.

"We use a million pounds of cheese a year, and it's an extra two cents a pound just for the freight," he said.

The doubling of fuel costs for the company's 30 delivery trucks - which have special ovens to keep the pizza hot - have cut profits by about two percent since last year.

Increased commodity costs have taken a five-percent bite out of the bottom line, Stolfe said.

"You have to be very careful about raising prices in this economy... You basically just have to suck it up and make cuts elsewhere to be able to afford to do it, to run the business."

Chicago has some of the highest gas prices in the nation. The average price hit a record $4.47 a gallon Wednesday, up from $3.15 a year ago.

Nationwide, average prices are still about 13 cents below the record $4.11 a gallon recorded on July 17, 2008, according to the AAA motor club.

But even people on the upper end of the pay scale are feeling the pinch.

"We've done a good bit of trimming," said lawyer Jeff Calabrese, who drives about 100 miles a day just taking his sons to and from a specialty school on the other side of the sprawling city.

"We got rid of certain luxuries - eating out, even trying to trim the cable bill, stuff like that, just to make ends meet," he said.

Across the country, many people have started to take public transit or their bikes instead of their cars and are talking to co-workers about carpooling, said AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher.

"Four dollars (a gallon) is really a tipping point where people take a hard look at their travel plans," Mosher told AFP.

But while this may have a positive environmental impact, past price spikes have shown it won't last long.

"People find their cars to be very convenient. They are often times reliant on their cars, particularly in areas like the Midwest, " Mosher said.

"Once gas prices start to come down, they'll hop back into their cars again and go back to their old ways."

mso/tr/mdl/jk/jj

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'