High gas prices threaten to shut down rural towns and relief organizations
And it's the rural republicans facing the hardest losses.
1) High gas prices threaten to shut down rural towns
The price of gas isn't an annoyance here. It's a calamity.
Peggy Hanley uses a generator that burns a gallon of diesel fuel every hour —at about $5 a gallon— to power Forks General Store, the only place to buy groceries for miles around. There's no electric service, so Hanley, the owner, uses the generator to run eight refrigerators, nine freezers, lights and two ice machines for the store, which has been in a trailer since a fire destroyed the original building in 1994.
There are no utilities and no public transportation in this unincorporated town of a couple hundred people along a narrow road that winds through the mountains 314 miles north of Sacramento. Many people here buy gas for their vehicles and gas or diesel for generators that power their homes.
"I'm scared to death" of rising fuel prices, Hanley says. At the store, the hub for visiting whitewater rafters and residents of other isolated towns, gas cost $5.30 a gallon on a recent day when the national average was $4.07.
This community may be an extreme example of how rising gas prices are hitting rural Americans particularly hard, but people in small towns from Maine to Alaska are in a similar bind as those here.
Soaring gas prices are a double-whammy for many rural residents: They often pay more than people who live in cities and suburbs because of the expense of hauling fuel to their communities, and they must drive greater distances for life's necessities: work, groceries, medical care and, of course, gas.
Meanwhile, incomes typically are lower in rural areas, making increasingly high gas prices an especially urgent concern. Rural households also are more likely to have older, less fuel-efficient vehicles such as pickups, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says. The average age of a vehicle in a rural household: 8.7 years, compared with 7.9 years for an urban vehicle.
Rural residents do more driving, too — an average of 3,100 miles a year more than urban dwellers, the FHWA says.
A May survey by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), a fuel analysis company, and Wright Express, a company that collects data on credit card transactions, found that people in rural areas spend as much as 16.02% of their monthly family income on gas, while people in urban areas of New York and New Jersey spend as little as 2.05%.
"The people who can least afford this are getting hit the worst," says Glen Falk, retail pricing manager at OPIS. "These are people who can't telecommute or carpool or use public transportation or any of the other things that people in metro areas can do to ease the pain."
2) Relief Organizations feeling effect of gas prices
With the cost of food and gas on the rise many relief organizations are seeing an increase in the number of people who need assistance with everyday necessities. The price of essential items is putting a strain on the resources available to the community.
Organizations designed to help people in need are finding it more difficult to do so with the increase. Upper Des Moines Opportunity in Spencer and Northwest Aging are among the organizations seeing a difference.
"We are seeing people come in who need help with groceries and don't know why, their income is not enough to cover the increasing costs of food and gas," said Anita Jorgensen, director of Upper Des Moines Opportunity. "The cost of everything is rising and wages aren't able to absorb that increase. People in rural areas who have to commute are especially feeling the increase because a transportation system is not available to help with the high cost of gas."