Pain at the Pump

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Ouch! That's an effective term to describe those digits starring at you from above. Gas prices have already hit $2.95 a gallon in the stateline, and we're still a month away from Memorial Day when we typically see gas prices spike.

"I thought last year we'd probably see the top, and this year I really think we'll see $4.00 a gallon," says Judd Daniels, owner of J&D Gas Mart.

So what's contributing to the tremendous surge? Maybe a better way to say that is what isn't? High worldwide demand, concerns with Iran, conflicts in Nigeria, and the transition from the gasoline additive MTBE to ethanol by July 1 are just a few, but Rockford college economics professor Bob Von Der Ohe says the biggest factor is investors pushing up the price of crude oil futures.

"There's a bunch of extra money out there driving up the price of the delivery of crude oil three to six months down the road, and that gets translated back into the real market for oil," says Von Der Ohe.

That gets translated into higher gas prices. Although some expect prices to reach $4 a gallon this summer, Von Der Ohe's prediction is more conservative.

"Unless something really terrible happens in the Mideast, we're looking at a top of $3.50, but sitting in this range from $2.95 to $3.50 back down to $2.95 probably from now until the end of September. But that could come down about 20 cents very quickly if these people back out of these speculative futures contracts," says Von Der Ohe.

We'll all be sweating at the pump this summer and hoping the fall brings cooler prices.

Rising prices not only hurt the consumer, but also the independent service stations. Owner Judd Daniels, who owns the Marathon Gas Station on State Street in Belvidere, says stations can't retain their margins. He's seen a five to 10 percent decline in fuel sales in the last month at his two stations.