Good, bad, ugly gas prices

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

It is common knowledge that gas is high. In a town like Selma, that can work for good and for bad.

Lauri Cothran of the Selma and Dallas County Centre for Commerce said rising gas prices affect Selma in a variety of ways, from taxes to tourism.

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“It might help keep people in Selma, which in the long run helps us, for sales tax and other things,” Cothran said. “One segment in which it might make life more difficult is for businesses that have to transport their goods to other places … We all see gas prices affecting the bottom line prices of items, like milk or meat, for instance. It really doesn’t just affect one thing, it affects everything.”

Cothran said tourism may also be affected, with national and international trends leaning toward shorter trips that end up closer to home.

Some people may stay home, while others may buy a more fuel-efficient car so that other parts of their lifestyle can remain unchanged, Cothran said.

National media reports gas across the country has reached an all-time, inflation-adjusted high in the most recent spike, based on data from the Lundberg Survey, an independent market research firm that uses personal surveyors to record gas prices at more than 5,000 gas stations around the country.

The national average now stands at $3.26.

According to the United States Department of Energy, gas prices in the Gulf Coast region of the country averaged $3.17, down 11 cents from the previous week.

In Selma, gas prices for self-serve regular averaged slightly more than national figures at $3.29, based on AAA reports. Several stations reported regular gas prices lower than the average at $3.11 or $3.12.

Prattville and Millbrook prices average around $3.16, while Montgomery’s average $3.17. Tuscaloosa’s average is $3.22, and Birmingham is averaging $3.19.

Huntsville’s average comes in at $3.24, and Mobile, $3.21.

Dept. of Energy records indicate gas prices are up 72 cents from this same time last year. Selma residents say those 72 cents do matter.

“Oh, it definitely makes a difference,” said Regina Wells, a Selma resident who drives an SUV, as she pumped gas at Citgo on U.S. Highway 80. “You have to take the kids to school, to practice, then you have to go to work. You really don’t have a choice. If I put five dollars in my tank, now it’s like putting in a dollar. It doesn’t do anything.”

Rebecca Griffith, a pickup truck driver, said the cents matter to her. “I commute to work from Safford every day,” Griffith said. “I spend at least $150 every two weeks on gas.”

Other residents disagree. “It doesn’t make a difference to me,” said Marvin Oliver, who works with the Alabama Department of Corrections. “You have to have it, whether it goes up to 82 or 92 cents. There’s no use in complaining about it.”