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Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Gas price drop helps businesses

By Shelley Grieshop
Towing vehicles across the countryside is a big part of Julius Hierholzer's bread and butter, and the recent drop in gas prices have made him a happy man.
Hierholzer, owner of Hierholzer Garage and Towing in Burkettsville, has three tow trucks that travel about 6,000 miles each month burning a healthy share of diesel.
"This whole gas thing has just been tremendous. It's ridiculous," he says about the erratic rise and fall of prices.
Hierholzer said he's gone into as much "conservation mode" as he can the last year, but when customers call, he goes.
"It's our business; that's what we do," he said.
Hierholzer contracts with AAA for his towing service and gets a "slight" discount for fuel, but he still wonders why diesel remains near $2.50 per gallon.
"I know it's getting better, but I hope it gets even lower," he adds.
The price of crude oil dropped under $59 per barrel during stock market trading Tuesday but reversed its downward slide by mid-morning today by rising 34 cents despite U.S. fuel stockpiles and lower demand.
Oil prices have dropped about 25 percent since mid-July's peak of $78.40 per barrel and that is currently reflected in gasoline prices across the Grand Lake area. The average price per regular gasoline locally ranged between $2.01 and $2.15 early today.
National prices for regular gasoline remain at $2.29 per gallon with numbers as high as $2.68 on the Pacific coast. Last year at this time, prices at the pump locally and statewide were between $2.90 and $3.
The recent decrease in fuel costs also has Christina Roby, the director of the Auglaize Council on Aging in St. Marys, sighing with relief. Following three years of funding cuts combined with the high cost of gasoline, she finally has some breathing room to implement services cut in the past, she said.
"We've had to really coordinate our trips this last year," Roby said.
She explained that many times clients waited to schedule trips to doctor's offices, grocery stores and other destinations so the agency could transport several people at once instead of frequent trips of only one or two.
"Keeping our vehicles properly maintained also helped us get better gas mileage," she added.
Also adding to the lower gasoline prices is the decreasing threat of strong hurricanes that could disrupt supplies. Forecasters say the United States is nearing the end of the typical hurricane season.
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