VALDOSTA -- Valdostans rushed to the pumps this week to fill up before gas prices climb higher.

Prices skyrocketed about 20 cents because of the shutdown of oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Buzz Akins, owner of Akins Petroleum Company, said he doesn't see prices falling any time soon.

"It is taking a lot out of the economy," Akins said. "It is really hurting this country right now."

But Akins is hopeful prices will level out, saying fears of shortages may be behind the spike.

Akins' company supplies 50 gas stations in Valdosta and owns 14 stations.

Akins owns the Big Foot Travel Center on St. Augustine Road.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the travel center was selling gas for $2.47 a gallon while the BP station down the road was listed at $2.69.

"This market is crazy," Akins said. "I had one (supplier) that went up 25 cents this morning and another supplier went down 12 cents."

Other stations around town averaged at $2.65.

According to gasbuddy.com, prices one year ago were $1.71.

Consumer James Linton said he wonders why the prices rise so quickly.

"It seems there would be a time lag when they refine it and it got to the pump," Linton said. "I think (the hurricane) is just an opportunity for people to jack their prices up."

In an effort to conserve, some Valdostans said they were backing off the pedal. Michelle Funt, a Valdosta State University student, said she tries not to drive as much and catches rides with friends or stays on campus.

"To see it go up 20 cents in a day, it's kinda crazy to think how much it could be in a year from now," Funt said.

Akins said business has reflected that people are conserving at the pump and traveling less.

Earl Copeland, who owns Earl Copeland Garage Incorporated, recommended getting vehicles tuned and keeping tires inflated.

Other ways to stretch the miles to the gallon are to organize routes when running errands, avoiding stop-and-go traffic and keeping a clean car. Copeland said a clean car slides easier through the wind, getting better gas mileage.

So far, law enforcement hasn't felt the effect of rising prices.

Capt. J.D. Yeager, Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, said the deputies drive about 150 to 200 miles a day.

"If it continues, we will probably have to park the cars for an hour a day to try to conserve, but I don't expect it to stay at the rate it's at," Yeager said.



To contact Brianne Sweetland, call (229) 244-3400, ext. 245.

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