Local businesses feel pain at the pump | SierraSun.com

Local businesses feel pain at the pump

Jenny Goldsmith/Sierra SunRachel Baines pumps gas into her 2007 Honda Civic at a Tahoe City service station on Saturday. Baines decided not to purchase a four-wheel drive vehicle in order to save money on fuel costs.

In an area economy that relies on visitors driving a hundred miles or more to stay at local resorts, high gasoline prices are no joke.

On Friday, the wholesale price of a 43-gallon barrel of oil topped $96, and a gallon of gas cost a half-buck more in Truckee-Tahoe than the record national price of $3.08.

So, even if tourism officials are convinced that visitors won’t change their driving habits, local businesses that must pay the high pump prices, have been among the first to feel the pain. For one thing, they often absorb the cost.

“We’ve been taking the burden for the gas price increase,” said driver Ray Sakuma of Checker Taxi. “It’s getting ridiculous.”

As the price of oil heads toward $100 a barrel, the flat rates for taxi services in the Tahoe Basin remain the same.

“The driver pays for the gas, so it definitely affects us everyday,” said Sakuma.

Snowplow companies in Truckee expect to feel a similar loss in profits due to a fixed snow removal price.

“We can’t compensate for the increase in our expenses,” said Matt Warren, owner of Snowtech in Truckee. “It’s going to be a drag.”

By contrast, those who depend on the tourism trade in the Truckee-Tahoe area, said they do not anticipate a change in travel due the soaring price of fuel.

“People still want to go away and if you’re a skier, you’re going to make the trip up,” said Director of Tourism Andy Chapman of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

The rise in gas prices did not affect the number of tourists visiting the area this summer, and Chapman said he believes it’s unlikely to have an impact on the winter season, either.

As for the upcoming holiday season, some Truckee residents say they will be driving as usual. George Grubb, an excavating foreman in Truckee, said the only effect the price increase will have on his holiday plans is in his pocketbook.

“There’s nothing you can really do about it, everything is just getting more expensive,” Grubb said.

According to Sean Comey, a spokesman from AAA of Northern California, many factors have contributed to the recent price jumps, including instability in Iraq, the possibility of war between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, as well as severe weather in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s difficult to project far into the future, but prices will go up in the next week or so,” said Comey.

At the beginning of the year, the price for a barrel of oil was in the mid-$50s. As of Friday, the cost was at $96 per barrel ” an exorbitant change, in Comey’s opinion.

As for where prices will go from here, it’s “anybody’s guess,” Comey said.

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