No immediate relief in sight for high gas prices

ELLSWORTH — Maine and the nation are experiencing record high gas prices with no relief in sight this spring or summer for that matter.

A Citgo station on State Street in Ellsworth Wednesday morning listed a gallon of unleaded for $4.79.

Mainers are trying to adjust as best they can.

Kim Fitch of Ellsworth has a side job working for DoorDash, delivering takeout and other goods to residents, schools and businesses. She’s using her Toyota Rav4, a four-wheel drive, for deliveries.

“Due to the rising cost of gas, DoorDash has implemented a fuel bonus as they’re calling it,” Fitch said. “In a week, if you put in over 100 miles you get a $5 bonus.”

“So, for me, this is something that I just do on the side for extra fun money,” Fitch said. “So, if I’m signed on, I’m not accepting an order that’s under $5 and not more than 5 or 6 miles radius. Otherwise it’s just not worth it to me with the price of gas.”

Fuel prices are affecting business bottom lines.

Josh Gray, who owns Blue Hill Disposal in Brooklin, travels the peninsula hauling residential and commercial trash in a diesel dump truck.

“It’s definitely a hit,” Gray said. While regular gasoline has yet to hit $5 a gallon, diesel has been up over $6 a gallon — nearly twice as much as last year.

“Our fuel is between $1,200 and $1,400 a month more,” Gray said. “I’m fortunate I’m small, I don’t have a dozen trucks on the road. We have thought about a surplus charge. As a businessperson at this end of it, you can’t raise your prices too much or you lose your customers.”

Gas spikes don’t seem to be affecting anyone’s travel plans as of yet. Local chambers expect business as usual this season.

“We have not seen any people backing out so far with reservations,” said Gretchen Wilson, executive director of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce. “So far we’re not seeing anything in terms of drops.”

However, small businesses have been affected.

“We’ve actually lost some memberships because of the expense of gas and fuel oil,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of companies that run boats and that’s a place they’ve thought of cutting this year. I also understand people are looking at ‘where can I cut?’”

Oil prices were already rising as demand increased coming out of pandemic slowdowns. Then, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Charlie Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, said there are a number of factors that translate to prices at the pump.

Reduced domestic energy production is one issue he said.

“The capacity in the U.S. today is down significantly,” said Summers. In the 1970s, the U.S. had 16 to 18 oil refineries. Today, the U.S. has about seven refineries.

Anthony Ronzio, deputy director of the Governor’s Office on Policy Innovation and the Future, said Maine is vulnerable to energy markets.

“Increased global energy prices for fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are prompting increased costs in electricity, home heating fuels, and by extension, the gas pump,” Ronzio said. “Maine is the most heating oil-dependent state in the nation and our electric grid is over-reliant on natural gas. Plus, Maine spends over $4 billion annually to import fossil fuels to the state. This makes Maine vulnerable to volatile global energy markets and underscores the need to become more energy-independent through home-grown, renewable energy sources.”

“The stations are not getting rich on these high prices,” said Chuck Lawrence, owner of Tradewinds Marketplace in Blue Hill, which has a fuel station. “They’re struggling to get the price down if they can.”

What attributes to the discrepancies in the price per gallon between one station and another down the road?

“It’s all about when you buy the gas and what your volume is,” Lawrence said. “It’s about what you have for capacity.”

Tradewinds gets a delivery every day and Lawrence tries to time the delivery if he can. He tries to either get a delivery before 6 p.m. if gas prices on the market are heading up or after 6 p.m. if it looks like prices are going down.

“A small station might be getting gas once every four or five days,” Lawrence said. “You might be 10 cents cheaper than Ellsworth or Bucksport for three or four days until your next delivery. Then you’re 25 cents higher.”

Tradewinds sells roughly 15 to 16 million of gallons of gas annually yet Chuck’s wife, Belinda, just bought an electric car.

“That’s saying something about the market,” Lawrence quipped. The car, a Hyundai, will travel 275 miles on a charge.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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