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Gas price hits $2 a gallon

Carrie Lopez of Clinton pumps gas into her Oldsmobile Bravada at Short Stop Texaco in Freeland Monday. Lopez said she is trying to conserve gas by combining errands on one day, instead of driving from her Scatchet Head home multiple times during the day. - Jennifer Conway
Carrie Lopez of Clinton pumps gas into her Oldsmobile Bravada at Short Stop Texaco in Freeland Monday. Lopez said she is trying to conserve gas by combining errands on one day, instead of driving from her Scatchet Head home multiple times during the day.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Gas prices are rising so fast Tony Yang can barely keep up.

Yang, owner of Clinton Square Chevron, said he changes his prices as often as Chevron faxes him the new gas hikes. That's pretty often as the threat of war looms.

One day last month, Chevron advised Yang to raise the price of his gasoline 5 cents in the morning and another 4 cents by midafternoon.

"That's nine cents in one day," he stressed. "I don't think it's going to come down for a while, I think it's going to be going up."

The rise in gas prices is part of a national trend. Since February, the price of fuel is up almost 50 cents in most categories. It's gotten so bad that the south end of Whidbey Island, long known for having gas prices that are far higher than almost anywhere else, is no more an expensive place to drive than Lynnwood or Seattle.

Even while gas prices are rising on the South Whidbey, so are gas sales. Yang said rebates given to mainland gas stations by oil companies were discontinued recently, allowing customers to buy gas on Whidbey Island for comparable prices.

Marty Winn, owner of McQueen's Whidbey Marine & Auto Supply in Freeland, said his gas sales have been rising due to the lack of those rebates.

"It's really opened up a different avenue for me," he said.

Winn said customers have told him that they will buy more of their gas on the island now that gas prices are close to those off island.

Lisa Sharp, a clerk at Naomi's Self Serve in Clinton, said she has also noticed more people filling up on the island, never mind the fact that a gallon of premium is over $2.

"Fuel consumption is up here," she said. "The price is comparable to over town."

Of course the dark cloud that goes with the gas stations' silver lining is that consumers are paying more at the pump. And no one is immune.

Lane Johnson of Clinton was filling up his truck, tractor and two gas cans Monday with diesel, once the deal of the petroleum industry. It's not anymore, he said. At $1.96 a gallon, Johnson spent $48.75 filling up.

"That's pretty high," he paused. "Really high. I'm not used to paying $2 a gallon."

For Carrie Lopez of Clinton, spending approximately $200 a month for gas is becoming the norm. Lopez, who lives in Scatchet Head, said she is trying to drive less to save money. She drives to classes in Oak Harbor every week, but even going to the grocery store is really adding up.

"I'm trying to do all of my errands together instead of spreading them out," said Lopez.

Also taking a hit are people who are paid to drive. Many motorists who drive their own vehicles for work aren't seeing an increase in their mileage reimbursement. While some companies try to pay the maximum 36 cents per mile allowed by the Internal Revenue Service, that may not be enough in Washington. The state's gas prices were 15 cents more for regular gasoline Tuesday than the national average. On Whidbey Island, local employers reimburse their employees at the IRS rate or below. The South Whidbey School District reimburses 27.5 cents a gallon, Island Home Nursing, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders and Washington Mutual Bank at 36 cents. But with gas prices up about 70 cents per gallon over a year ago, those 36 cents don't go quite as far.

On Tuesday, only four states -- California, Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon -- had higher averages gas prices than Washington, according to AAA.

Georgia had the best prices, averaging $1.52 a gallon for regular gas.

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