--> WHAT OIL PRICE HIKES MEAN TO YOU: "The price of diesel fuel, generally ignored outside the transportation industry, is slowly raising the price of nearly every commodity across the nation." "The spike in diesel costs could pump grocery bills as much as 10 percent higher over the next 45 days."

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Diesel Dominoes: Higher costs could mean paying $3 for a gallon of milk, add $400 to car cost. Adam Hatch, The Herald-Sun, Durham, NC

Rising diesel prices have truckers fuming and could soon raise a stink with consumers as the cost of getting goods to market increases.

High gas prices could eventually mean paying $3 for a gallon of milk or $400 extra on a new car, experts say, all because it will be more expensive to get it on the shelf or on the lot.

The price of diesel fuel, generally ignored outside the transportation industry, is slowly raising the price of nearly every commodity across the nation. And expectations are that gas prices will rise even higher still--10-15 cents more per gallon of diesel and even more for unleaded, according to AAA Carolinas in Charlotte.

Wednesday, some Durham gas stations were charging $1.45 a gallon for diesel, enraging drivers and depleting private truckers' bank accounts.

"It's criminal what they're charging," said Jerry Houston, a private trucker from New York who stopped in Durham on Wednesday to fill up before heading south. "How am I supposed to get by? There's no way around it until we get to Georgia, where it's a little better."

Increases in trucking costs out the squeeze on everyone. America moves everything from food to industrial waste down the highways inside diesel-fuel-swallowing vehicles.

Although prices vary from state to state, diesel fuel in North Carolina has increased from $1.01 per gallon 15 months ago to around $1.40 a gallon this week--an increase of 38.6 per cent.

When the price at the pump increases, those costs are passed onto shipping customers and they, in turn, pass that cost on to consumers.

"We add a fuel surcharge to the trucks based on how high the price goes," said Patrick Smith, manager of Durham's Allens Expedited trucking company. "Every trucking company does it. If we didn't do it, we wouldn't stay in business."

The spike in diesel costs could pump grocery bills as much as 10 percent higher over the next 45 days.

"A price increase may be inevitable," said Chris Ahearn, Food Lion spokeswoman. "So far, we haven't passed the price increases on to our customers. but the problem appears to have no end in sight."

Many airlines, which use kerosene to fuel their jets, have already added fuel surcharges to tickets to cover increased gas prices.

American Airlines added a $10 fee each way for flights in the United States and Canada two weeks ago. Any future increases will depend on what the market does, sp0okesman Mark Kienzle said.

Many cities across the state are wrestling with the problems, trying to keep from passing added costs onto consumers.

In Durham, DATA's 32 buses consume 600,000 gallons of gas a year. The department budgeted for diesel costing 70 cents per gallon before taxes, transit administrator Steve Mancuso said.

During the first six months of the current fiscal year, DATA managed to buy gas for less than that. It's now paying 83 cents per gallon, and that's down from the 92 cents it was paying last month.

Still, Mancuso said it's too early to talk about raising fares. "Having gone six months less than [budgeted], we can go above as long as it doesn't continue or the price increase more," he said.

Elsewhere in North Caroline, Charlotte Transit says it may have to pay an additional $2.7 million in fuel costs this year. That cost must be made up somewhere, but it won't be done with increased fares, said Michael Melaniphy, general manager for Charlotte Transit.

The city of Winston-Salem operates about 1,700 pieces of equipment--many of them diesels--to keep the city clean and perform public functions.

"We're still having to get the work done," said Sandy Barfoot, fleet services director. "But it's just much more expensive. We like to think people aren't out there just driving around."

The increased gas prices for diesel, kerosene and unleaded began when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries--11, mostly Middle Eastern countries--agreed to limit production.

That decision coincided with a cold winter in the United States, driving up heating costs in the Northeast and Midwest especially. At the same time, many Asian economies rebounded, increased demand for fuel there.

{Any typos are the responsibility of OG.]

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 17, 2000


diesel $1.45/gal in NC? .. gee thats great! its $2.09 here in northern NY...

-- lou (lanny1@ix.netcom.com), February 17, 2000.

Apparently, the further south one goes, the cheaper the diesel. I suspect it has something to do with the amount of oil products consumed in the winter. It seems if this situation continues, we shall see higher prices than you in the summer when our air conditioners are at full (or perhaps not quite so full) blast.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 17, 2000.

Milk has always been $3 a gal or more in my area (Ark). I don't know why milk is so expensive here and so cheap in Texas. Last summer milk was $1 a gal in east Tx. I guess I will be paying $4 or more now.

-- Carol (glear@usa.net), February 17, 2000.

Right now gas is $1.299 in No. Calif and milk is $1.99/gal

-- Homeschooling Grandma (mlaymon@glenn-co.k12.ca.us), February 18, 2000.

milk was on "sale" last week in concord nh. hood milk 2/5.00. it's regularly 2.69 to 2.89. laura

-- laura cavallari (ladygoat13@aol.com), February 19, 2000.

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