Bay Area drivers struggle to keep up with gas prices

April 26, 2011 6:30:00 PM PDT
The rapid rise in gas prices has slowed a bit in the past week, but the cost of a gallon of gasoline is still moving in the wrong direction for many Bay Area consumers. According to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Oakland is $4.23, just one penny higher than one week ago, but up 21 cents in the past month. That's little consolation for most people, given the fact that the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has gone up $1.20 in the past year.

Walnut Creek florist J.R. Cude says skyrocketing gas prices are seriously cutting into his profits, making it tough for him to keep his local delivery price at $10.

"Gas prices are very much a concern," Cude said. "I think $5-a-gallon-gas or maybe even $4.50 will be the breaking point." Cude, who owns The Flower Bowl on Boulevard Circle, says he will try to keep the delivery charge where it is through Mother's Day, which is the busiest delivery day of the year.

Cab drivers say they, too, are just trying to hold on. Some drivers lease their cars from the company and pay for fuel out of their own pockets.

"We're all responsible for our own tank, our own gas, all of us," said cab driver Darrell Knight. "So it comes out of the profits."

"It's really eating into our tips and then double end of it is, is that the economy is so bad that we're not even receiving tips," said cab driver Ernie Velilla.

James Sneed spends hundreds of dollars per week on gas, driving his truck for his countertop installation company.

"I'm estimating, driving around for templates, and gas prices are just killing it," said Sneed. "Where do you put that in? You can't really mark up your product for gas."

And though prices have leveled a bit in recent days, if history is any indicator, they won't stay that way for long. California State Automobile Association spokesman Matt Skryja told ABC7 prices have actually plateaued a bit in Bay Area cities in the past week.

"Trying to gauge where gas prices are going to go is like looking into a crystal ball and saying who's going to win the Super Bowl next year," Skryja said. "Certainly we are on a track going into the summer driving season where historically prices do go up."

Tourist Boyer Kalugda doesn't like what he sees at the pumps, but being from the Philippines does give him a little perspective.

"Almost $6, $5.50 [in the Philippines]," said Kalugda, who despite the big difference, still doesn't see much of a bargain in the States.

The dramatic price increases at the pump come as several big oil companies are set to announce staggering first quarter profits. Analysts expect profits for the first three months of 2011 to go up 45 percent over last year to about $35 billion for the quarter, or $390 per day. Most of the profits come from the company's "downstream" operations, which involve oil exploration and recovery. Data from the companies' 2010 reports show just 7 percent of their total profits come from the retail and refining aspects of their businesses.

Tuesday, President Barack Obama urged gas producers like Saudi Arabia to increase supplies and lower prices to avoid damage to the global economy. He wants to curtail $4 billion in tax subsidies to big oil companies which are expected to announce huge first quarter profits starting Wednesday.

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