Peeved at the pump

By Liliana Castillo and Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico

For Thomas Harrington II, gasoline was too expensive in 1983 when it hit a dollar a gallon. Harrington said he has ridden a bike everywhere since.

“Gas prices now don’t affect me one bit,” he said Friday. “I wouldn’t put up with it then and I don’t have to deal with it now.”

Harrington is an exception.

Several area residents said Friday they are driving less or canceled summer vacations to deal with record gas prices — $3.75 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline at most area gas stations.

Lorenzo Ortiz of Clovis said his family copes with the rising gas prices by using their vehicle less.

“We only use it if we have to, for necessities. No more riding around just for the fun of it,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz also said his family has decided to only travel in state for vacation this summer.

Another Clovis resident, Raquel Urioste, said the gas prices are ridiculous and that her family is cutting back to handle it.

“We’re probably not going on vacation,” Urioste said. “And on the weekends I have to tell my kids we can’t do that because mommy spent that money on gas.”

Urioste said she also limits her trips to grocery stores until she has a long list of things to buy instead of running to the store for three items.

The national average price of a gallon of regular gas jumped 2.6 cents overnight to a record $3.671 a gallon on Friday, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. The Energy Department expects prices to peak at a monthly average of $3.73 in June, though many analysts say national average prices could rise as high as $4. Consumers in many regions, including parts of California and Hawaii, are already paying that much.

“They’ve got us over a barrel and they’re going to keep us there,” Clayton resident John Johnston said as he purchased gas Friday in Portales. “It’s $3.65 where I’m from (in Clayton). It’s a lot higher here.”

Johnson also said the price has gotten to the point where he limits his driving.

Portales resident Christopher Brito didn’t mince words about his feelings about the pain at the pump.

“It’s outrageous,” Brito said.

Junior Ramirez typically puts about $20 into his truck every time he visits a gas station and lamented it buys less and less every time he fills up.

“It’s getting crazy,” Ramirez said. “It’s unbelievable. I just put $20 in and it only got me just over five gallons.”

“I just wish they would deal with whatever they have to deal with over there (in the Middle East) and start lowering (the price of gas),” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said if prices go higher, he’ll start making changes.

“If it gets to $5 a gallon, I might think about getting a motorcycle or something like that, something economical, or a four-cylinder car,” Ramirez said.

Dion Hightower of Portales has already made a few changes. Hightower lives close enough to his job to walk a couple of days a week to make his gas last longer.

“I don’t pay much attention to it really,” Portales resident Hightower said. “I just put in a set amount every week and hope that gets me through to the next pay day.”