High gas prices hurt rural areas very hard
- Rural areas are sparsely populated so people must drive farther distances to get to places.
- Rural areas have little to more often no public transportation system. They are more dependant on cars.
- They are more likely to drive fuel inefficient vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks.
- They are far more likely to live in single family houses where utilities for cooling and heating cost far more than townhouses, condos, and apartments.
- They tend to have lower incomes, so gas prices and especially gas price hikes take out a bigger portion of their incomes.
- Everything they do costs more with higher gas prices because it costs more to deliver items to their distant and isolated buildings like schools, stores, and hospitals. It's getting to a point where it's more financially efficient to close down essential buildings like hospitals.
It's very real the pain rural areas are facing. Here is the story of some North Dakota residents.
WILTON - Trips to the gas station are a painfully frequent part of 19-year-old Mike Stammen's far-flung life.
Stammen, who lives in Stanley but works full-time in the oil fields of eastern Montana, estimates he drives more than 400 miles a week in his Ford F-250 pickup. The cost to top off his truck's gas tank: about $125.
As a rural driver, Stammen is part of the demographic that has felt the biggest financial squeeze from rising gas prices.
A study released earlier this month by the Consumer Federation of America shows that rural households drive 15 percent more miles and spend 20 percent more on gas than their counterparts in metropolitan areas.
Because they own more pickups and other large vehicles, rural households also average 6 percent fewer miles per gallon than their counterparts in metropolitan areas, the study found.
The impact to rural drivers' pocketbooks is happening from coast to coast. But its biggest cumulative effect is felt in places like North Dakota, where a majority of the population lives in rural areas.
"Everywhere we have to go, we have to drive," Stammen said as he filled up his pickup last week at a Cenex station here. "We can't take a bus or a taxi or anything like that."
Inside the store, clerks like JoAnn Otto are on the front lines of frustration over rising fuel prices.
"People complain a lot," Otto said. "They complain a lot that they can't do much of anything else because the gas prices are so high."
She remembers one customer who blamed her personally for the price increase and threatened to call her manager.
According to the survey, they have reason to complain. Rural drivers are spending an average of 5.4 percent of their incomes on gasoline, compared to 3.5 percent for their metropolitan counterparts. This difference is due to both the higher cost of rural driving and lower average incomes among this demographic.
Keep in mind North Dakota was one of the strongest supporters of Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Red rural states, you voted for Bush and the Republicans, now pay the price at the gas pump and more.