Greed -- that's what Payson resident Harold Snyder calls the latest hike in gasoline prices. And, he knows of where he speaks. Two years ago, he led the picket parade in front of several local gasoline stations in an attempt to persuade station owners to lower their prices.
This year, the charge is being led by Joan Young, who posted a message on a local Internet bulletin board calling for a town-wide "gas out."
"Do not buy any gasoline from April 7 through April 9, 2000," Young said. "Buy as much as you need before the dates listed above, or after, but do not buy any during the gas out."
Young said a similar "gas out" last April was staged across Canada and major U.S. cities to bring the price of gas down.
"It worked," Young said. "It's time to do something about it again."
Frustrated with his own attempt, Snyder said, "Nobody in this town cares.
"I tried to form a picket line two years ago when prices were up. I gave my phone number on the radio and in the newspaper. Six people called. I'd lead the picket again if the people showed up. There's 13 gas stations in town -- you need at least 26 people to picket, two at each to take turns.
"We stood there for a week in the rain, snow and nice weather. People drove in right where we were standing and paid higher prices than right across the street."
Laura Rightenburg, public relations manager with AAA Arizona in Phoenix, said, "At a time when gasoline is usually at its cheapest throughout the year, Arizona motorists are now paying higher than normal prices."
In a Feb. 29 press release, Rightenburg said the statewide average price for unleaded gasoline had climbed 7.3-cents higher, to $1.41 in two weeks. A year ago, the statewide average was 96 cents a gallon.
Rightenburg said that gasoline prices rose in Phoenix, Tucson and in the state's rural areas.
Brent Turley, manager of the Giant Service Station on Highway 260 in Payson, said gasoline prices rose 2 cents Tuesday, from $1.39 for unleaded to $1.41. The mid-range gasoline price at the Giant station is now $1.51 and premium gasoline is $1.61.
Turley attributed the hike in gasoline to the price of oil going up.
Dale Strothmann, manager of the Payson North Circle K, said, "The only thing we're being told is our costs are so high that we have to go up."
Strothmann said all three Circle Ks in the area get their prices from the corporate office in the Valley. They are the same in each market, but Strothmann said he has heard that Circle K prices in the Valley are even higher than in Payson.
"Corporate calls us and tells us what our prices have to be," he said.
"Two weeks ago, when the costs went up, we were only making a penny a gallon -- we had no choice but to go up."
Strothmann said the wholesale cost of gasoline is changing daily and, like any other business, retailers have to reflect that cost.
"Right now, I can't predict which way it's going to go," he said. "It's not a situation that any of us enjoy, trust me. Any of us who work here also pay the same retail across the counter that everybody else does."
Snyder said he has hopes for the future of gasoline and believes the federal government will reduce taxes.
"I don't think they need 18 cents a gallon," he said. "The Indians surprise me. They could control gas prices in this town and take 18 cents off the price of gas.
"Fifteen to 20 cents a gallon profit is too much."
Gas-saving tips from AAA-Arizona
During the period of high prices for gas, AAA Arizona urges motorists to practice the following fuel conservation and money tips:
• Shop around for the lowest prices;
- If your car's owner's manual does not call for premium fuel, using anything higher than regular unleaded is simply a waste of money;
• Avoid quick starts and stops, and slow down (the faster a vehicle travels, the more gas it burns);
• Maintain your vehicle, keep your tires properly inflated, and all your fluids at proper levels;
• Combine errands into one trip, or go to one location to take care of as many errands as possible;
• Car-pool, even if it's once or twice a week.