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GASping over fuel prices

The rising cost of gasoline in the Rogue Valley forces motorists to modify their driving habits

Steve Carter of Rogue River is spending &

36;50 with each visit to the gas pump these days.

I think it's ridiculous, said the traveling insurance agent who filled up near White City Wednesday.

I'm spending about &

36;300 a week, said Carter, who drives his Ford F-150 to all ends of the valley.

He likes meeting one-on-one with clients in their homes, but said I think I'm going to have to change my philosophy.

Carter was one of many upset drivers at gas pumps Wednesday as they watched the sign being changed from &

36;2.259 to &

36;2.279 per gallon for regular at the BiMor Shell station on Highway 62. The price changes have become a daily routine at stations nationwide.

— Average prices for regular gas hit &

36;2.275 in the Medford-Ashland area Wednesday, up about 7 cents from Monday and 34 cents from a month ago, according to AAA.

The energy department reported today that they expect prices to peak in June and then hold steady, said Elliott Eki, AAA Oregon public affairs director.

According to the association, Oregon's statewide average price of &

36;2.212 on Wednesday ranked third highest in the nation ' surpassed only by California at &

36;2.248 and Nevada at &

36;2.220. Washington's average price was &

36;2.173, and Idaho's was &

36;2.013. Last week, only five states' average prices exceeded &

36;2; this week the count is up to 10. South Carolina had the lowest average price Wednesday at &

36;1.780.

The cause of ongoing increases, said Eki, is that refineries can't keep up with customers at the pumps.

The demand is 10 percent higher than the refineries can meet, he said.

And Oregon has some of the most expensive gas in the nation because there's only one pipeline coming in from Washington.

From there, everything is trucked in, he said. So you've got added transportation costs.

We're just in a bad location geographically.

Eki predicts traditional travel weekends such as Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July will still be popular and gas prices won't deter people from loading up the family car.

And that will affect costs even more.

I don't see the prices having any way to go but up, he said.

Roger Warner, manager of the BiMor Shell on Highway 62, said he hears a lot of people complain about prices. All he can do is agree with customers that it's expensive and explain there's nothing he can do about it.

I get the call to raise it or lower it, he said. I get no input.

Karen Shaddox of Eagle Point just moved up from California and wasn't outraged by Wednesday's gas prices as she was filling up her rented moving van.

We've been paying that down in California, she said.

But Kyleea Hess of Eagle Point said she felt terrible about the increases.

How do you expect us to afford it on minimum wage? she said.

BiMor customer Chuck Barrie, who works for the Medford Fire Department, said he's been forced him to change his mode of transportation. He now drives his new yellow Suzuki motorcycle to work because he can't afford to keep filling up his truck.

It's actually cheaper to buy the bike, pay the payment and the gas, instead of driving my truck, said Barrie.

Milton Smith, president of the Kawasaki and Honda motorcycle dealership of Medford, said Barrie's not alone.

We've had two record months in the last two months, he said.

He said ranchers are switching from jeeps to ATVs, and commuters are switching from cars to scooters.

He said customers have reported to him their new scooters get as much as 80 miles per gallon.

Pretty soon I think we'll all be on scooters because of (the gas prices), he said.

It could be worse You think it's bad here, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Web site, other countries had significantly higher gas price averages as of May 10:

Belgium ' &

36;4.87/gallon

France ' &

36;4.92/gallon

Germany ' &

36;5.28/gallon

Italy ' &

36;5.06/gallon

Netherlands ' &

36;5.83/gallon

UK ' &

36;5.40/gallon

BiMor Shell employee Chris Warner raises the price for gas at the station Wednesday. Experts predict prices will continue spiraling upward until June. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell