Fuel prices hit historic highs for February, local businesses tighten belts

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by Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on February 17, 2013 at 11:25 PM

KENNER, La. - Gas prices are hitting historic highs for the month of February. A gallon of regular unleaded will run you an average of $3.71 nationally, according to AAA’s daily fuel gauge report. That's up more than 40 cents from this time last month. 

On any given day, an Ice House delivery truck clocks about 100 miles, according to company president Joe Ricca. With 13 trucks in all, fuel is the Kenner ice company's biggest expense.
 
“The big trucks, they get three, four, five miles to the gallon,” said Ricca.
 
And a recent spike in fuel prices means pain in the Ice House's pocketbook.
 
“It's a huge impact, it's a great expense for us, and the way it's been spiking the last three or four weeks, it definitely cuts into our bottom line,” said Ricca.
 
Historically, drivers pay less at the pump during winter months, and see an increase in the summer. But in recent years, that trend has changed.
 
“Usually we don't see them rise until the summer time, so it's been a little struggle, especially right after the start of the New Year and right after Christmas. You're trying to get back from all of that,” said Heather Gonzalez as she fueled up in Kenner.
 
“They're just ridiculous now, going up this high in a matter of days, I don't understand it,” said Mark Truehill, of LaPlace.
 
So why have prices at the pump spiked? Experts say there are several reasons, including higher crude oil prices, tensions in the Middle East, and some decisions by local refineries which are temporarily cutting capacities.
 
“It appears that because demand is so low right now, that that's going on right now, we've seen refineries that are shutting down for maintenance and doing that transition from winter grade to spring grade,” said Don Redman, fuel analyst for AAA Louisiana.
 
Meanwhile, the Ice House is considering investing in vehicles that run on alternative fuel to cut costs.
 
“I don't see this problem going away, I think it's going to be around for awhile,” said Ricca.
 
Ricca said that they don’t raise the price of ice when the cost of fuel goes up, but there is an added fuel surcharge per delivery if fuel costs increase beyond a certain level.
 
Redman doesn’t believe an early surge in gas prices this year will mean historic summertime highs. Instead, he believes prices may be peak earlier than usual in the spring.
 
According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in New Orleans on February 17th was $3.539, up from $3.20 a month ago and $3.475 a year ago.
 
According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded nationwide was $3.714 on February 17th, up from $3.293 a month ago and $3.538 a year ago.

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