Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Running on Empty" Gas station owners close down due to high prices!

Running on empty

Hit by high prices and fees, some gas station owners stop selling fuel

Posted: May 23, 2007

As gas prices hit another record last Friday, Jeff Curro couldn't take it anymore.

After owning the Shell gas station at 3075 N. 124th St. in Brookfield for 20 years, Jeff Curro has stopped selling gas. As gas prices rose, his profit margin dropped.

He wasn't a motorist at the pump fed up by the blur of numbers spinning higher as he filled his tank.

Curro is a gas station owner who has stopped selling gas to his own customers.

After selling gas at N. 124th and W. Burleigh streets for 20 years, Curro turned off his pumps at his Shell station in Brookfield when the price he was being asked to pay was just too much.

Including the wholesale cost of gas and other taxes and charges, he was being asked to pay $3.44 a gallon Friday, a day when the competing stations down the street were selling gasoline for $3.47.

"Three cents a gallon doesn't cut it," Curro said. "It doesn't pay the bills."

Add to that the money he loses every time a motorist uses a credit card at the pump, and there was no reason to keep selling gas, Curro said.

Credit card companies and banks get an average of 2.75% on every gallon of gas sold, and credit card processing fees now rank as the second-biggest expense for gas station operators, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

"The way I see it is, I'm doing all the work of providing the labor, the wages, the electricity, the lighting, the maintenance of the pumps, the repairs and the insurance, which is quite substantial," Curro said. "I'm doing all the work, and somebody else is getting fat on me."

Curro isn't alone in deciding to not sell gas anymore. Casey O'Gorman did the same thing. In business for 25 years near State Fair Park, his West Allis service station is now doing business exclusively as Auto Analyzers. The Shell name came down a few months back.

"I finally had to just pull the plug on it and say, 'I can't afford to do it anymore,' " O'Gorman said.
High wholesale prices

Curro and O'Gorman are leaving a relatively small and disappearing group of service station owners who both sell gas and repair cars.

Independent auto-repair shops face competition from car dealerships and quick-lube repair shops, and in the sale of gasoline, they compete against full-line convenience stores.

Most gas stations today double as convenience stores, and although they generate more than two-thirds of sales from gas, two-thirds of profit comes from in-store sales of cigarettes, drinks and food, according to the convenience store association.

When drivers are paying more, they think that means higher profits for the filling station, said Bob Bartlett, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores Association.

The case of the two Shell stations stopping sales of gas illustrates the challenges faced by independent station owners across the state, Bartlett said. Nine of 10 stations in the state are independently owned and run, he said.

Between Feb. 1 and Monday, Bartlett said, the average wholesale price paid by service stations in Milwaukee to buy gasoline rose from $1.66 to $2.94. Add in taxes paid to the federal and state governments, as well as transportation costs, and the average service station had to cover $3.47 on Monday, without charging any profit. On that day, stations were charging their customers $3.47 on average in Milwaukee, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

"People are upset about oil and gas prices, but it's not this guy right here," Bartlett said of the independent gas station owner. "He's not OPEC. He's not refining it. He's buying it kind of like I am, right at the end of the line here."
Sales up, profit down

Curro has been thinking about shutting down his gas pumps for about a year, and he has complained to his supplier about prices.

When he shut down his pumps, he was charging $3.59 a gallon, 12 cents higher than the competing stations nearby.

"Even at $3.59, I was making 15 cents, but I was still giving 10 of those cents to MasterCard," he said.

Nationally, the Association of Convenience Stores estimates that sales rose 12% but profit fell 23% industrywide last year, and for the first time, credit card fees were higher than the industry's profit.

Lower margins on the sale of fuel and credit card fees were the two main factors behind the drop in profit, the association said, as profit margins on the sale of fuel dipped to their lowest point since 1983.

Until January, O'Gorman and the predecessors at S. 84th St. and W. Greenfield Ave. sold gasoline on that corner since 1938.

He says he never made much money selling gas but started seeing margins nosedive last year when gas prices rose.

"More and more, it was crowding out my real form of income," O'Gorman said, referring to car repairs.

"Then you listen to the public, and they say we're gouging them. Who needs to listen to that? I'd need to have my head examined."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We should prolly feel thankful that our gas prices have not reached the national average yet...which as of Monday afternoon was $3.14/gal for regular unleaded...this picture was taken Sunday McKinney!

Found a couple of interesting articles this AM on news wires and such...they are worthy of attention since Memorial Day weekend fast approacheth...

Oil prices surge on Nigeria unrest, US refinery woes
05.21.07, 8:59 PM ET

World oil prices rose on Monday as the market saw no end to concerns over tight supplies caused by unrest in key crude producer Nigeria and output disruptions at US refineries, traders said.

New York's main oil futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, gained 1.33 usd to close at 66.27 usd a barrel.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for July delivery added 1.07 usd to finish at 70.49 usd. In intraday trade, it climbed as high as 70.83 usd, a level not seen since late August.

Crude prices remained underpinned by concerns about abnormally tight supplies of gasoline in the

United States due to refinery problems, just as motorists take to the road this weekend at the start of the summer vacation driving season.

'With the country running on fumes for supply and another bad week for refiners with outages, or good luck if you look at it from the profit angle, the market seems to be adjusting to its bullish destiny,' said Phil Flynn of Alaron Trading.

Meanwhile, US gasoline prices continued to hit fresh record highs. The American Automobile Association (AAA) said the average national price of unleaded regular gasoline had jumped to 3.196 usd per gallon, the highest average it has recorded.

A month ago the price was 2.859 usd a gallon.

The AAA has forecasted 38.8 mln Americans will be on the roads this weekend, up 1.7 pct from last year.

Fresh unrest in Nigeria, where strikes are planned this week at two refineries, also drove prices higher.

'Crude futures were a little firmer today, supported by further attacks and kidnappings in Nigeria,' Sucden analyst Michael Davies said in London.

Reports of an attack early on Monday by unidentified gunmen on France's Total oil facility in Nigeria, an OPEC member, added to instability.

Nigerian oil unions threatened Sunday to launch a strike this week to protest against the planned sale of two government-owned oil refineries to private investors.

Representatives of the PENGASSAN and NUPENG oil workers unions told a joint press conference in Lagos that the strike against the proposed sale of the installations in the oil city of Port Harcourt would begin on Thursday.

The refineries, which have a combined production capacity of 210,000 barrels of crude per day, are subsidiaries of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that employs some 4,000


'What could stir things a bit are worries over the strike on 24 May that would affect the global crude market,' said Tobin Gorey, a Commonwealth Bank of Australia commodities strategist in Sydney.

Oil-rich Nigeria is Africa's biggest producer, accounting for 2.6 mln barrels per day of crude, but a quarter of that figure is currently lost to unrest in the restive oil-producing south.

Further price support this year would come from limited refining capacity in the United States, according to the Centre for Global Energy Studies, a London-based research body which published its monthly report on Monday.

'As long as ... capacity remains inadequate to meet gasoline demand and OPEC responds by restricting output to keep prices too high ... the oil market's current period of high and volatile prices will continue,' the CGES said.

The CGES also warned that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) must increase supplies to avoid oil prices spiking to record levels.

The other interesting piece of news:

The news today that Kuwait had "unpegged" their currency from the "dollar" because of its rapid devaluation guarantees we will see more price increases in the near future."

As long as there is political turmoil in the Mideast things are not going to get any long as the dollar continues to fall in value things are not going to get any better...a poster to a message I read frequently said it best:

Anyone looking for sanity regarding gas prices is best off exhibiting some themselves and making serious adjustments to their lifestyle. It is probably best to do this before the hurricane season lobs a kill shot right into the Gulf of Mexico. In other words, things aren't going to get much better, and they may get significantly worse in the months (and certainly in the years) to come."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Looking for something fun to do on Thursday night? Look no further than Poppy's - where they have been having Salsa lessons on Thursday nights...its a blast! Eat some good food, have a couple a drinks, enjoy the company of friends, and then do Salsa and Merengue to some serious Latin music! Yeah...its a hell of a good time!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I find this article tremendously disingenuous...whether you or I support Ron Paul and his policies is not the issue to me, the simple fact is that the man has a right to be heard - and then let the people decide for themselves whether or not his politics have merit. To discourage debate sponsors and broadcasters from inviting him to the table is a slap in the face to the American way of life!

And so it begins: GOP leader starts petition to ban Ron Paul from future debates

One GOP leader has heard enough of Paul

The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party said Wednesday he will try to bar presidential candidate Ron Paul from future GOP debates because of remarks the Texas congressman made that suggested the Sept. 11 attacks were the fault of U.S. foreign policy.

Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis said he will circulate a petition among Republican National Committee members to ban Paul from other debates. At a GOP candidates’ debate Tuesday night, Paul drew attacks from all sides, most forcefully from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when he linked the terror attacks to U.S. bombings.

“Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years,” Paul said.

Anuzis called the comments “off the wall and out of whack.”

“I think he would have felt much more comfortable on the stage with the Democrats in what he said last night and I think that he is a distraction in the Republican primary and he does not represent the base and he does not represent the party,” Anuzis said during an RNC state leadership meeting in Columbia.

“Given what he said last night it was just so off the wall and out of whack that I think it was more detrimental than helpful,” Anuzis said.

Anuzis said his petition would go to debate sponsors and broadcasters to discourage inviting Paul.

Paul’s campaign did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

After the debate Tuesday, Paul said he didn’t’ expect his remarks to end his campaign.

“The last time I got a message out about my position on the war it boosted us up by tens of thousands and I didn’t change my position,” Paul said. “I think the American people are sick and tired of this war and want it ended.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Venezuela nationalises foreign oil rigs
Web posted at: 5/15/2007 4:9:7
Source ::: AFP

CARACAS • The Venezuelan government of firebrand President Hugo Chavez said yesterday it was taking control of oil rigs from multinational firms, in the latest of a wave of nationalisations.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez, who also heads the state-owned energy company PDVSA, said the firm had in the past ceded control of 18 offshore drilling platforms to foreign giants.

"These companies demand millions for the use of these machines. Faced with this situation, we have decided to nationalise this equipment," he told the official Venezuelan news agency ABN without elaborating.

Oil services firms present in Venezuela include US giants such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger. At the start of his second six-year term in January, the leftist Chavez decided to nationalise "strategic" interests in sectors such as energy, telecommunications and power generation.

Chavez, whose government is flush with cash from booming oil prices, has been a repeated thorn in the side of the United States, which buys about half of Venezuela's daily crude production of three million barrels.

PDVSA is diversifying its supply of drilling machines used in oil exploration, and Ramirez said the first of a new batch from China would arrive in November. "The idea is to acquire 13 machines, with one arriving each month," the energy minister said.

"In parallel to this agreement, Venezuela will install an assembly plant for drilling machines and in a second stage, the objective will be to make these machines directly in the country," he said.

Meanwhile, President George W Bush rolled out yesterday plans to slash US reliance on oil supplied from unstable regions and so boost the energy-hungry country's defences against extremist attack.

The directive to cut gasoline usage by 20 per cent in the next 10 years will make the United States "more secure for generations to come," help economic growth and safeguard the environment, Bush said.

The so-called "20 in 10" plan was first laid out in Bush's State of the Union speech in January, seeking to slash US oil imports from the restive Middle East and make US energy supply less vulnerable to terrorism.

The president presented legislative proposals for Congress and ordered regulatory action from his cabinet members in charge of transportation, energy, agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by end-2008. "Our dependence on oil creates a risk for our economy because a supply disruption anywhere in the world could drive up American gas (gasoline) prices to even more painful levels," he said in the White House Rose Garden.

"Our dependence on oil creates a threat to America's national security because it leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes and to terrorists who could attack oil infrastructure.

"For all these reasons, America has a clear national interest in reducing our dependence on oil."

Bush urged Congress to pass legislation setting fuel economy standards that would result in quintupling the current consumption of renewable and alternative fuels to 35 billion gallons (133 billion liters) by 2017.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Summer must be on the way, as is usually the case this time of year in Tejas...but at 5PM today it was 88 degrees here in McKinney, which means it had to be hotter than hell down in Dallas...but thats the way it is this time of people would be inside enjoying some air conditioning on a day like today...but Norm and I went on another one of our now world famous adventures...this time to play with his new 10.5 fisheye lense...and I can tell ya that this lense ROCKS!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

(CBS 11 News)
A handful of schools and businesses closed Thursday as electric crews worked through the night to restore power to as many as 300,000 customers.

Oncor Electric Delivery -- a newly re-named subsidiary of TXU -- calls this the fifth worth storm in the company's history.

Since Wednesday, about 100,000 customers have regained their service, but some areas could take up to a week to totally repair.

Traffic lights throughout the region have delayed drivers. Officials remind commuters that flash flooding may occur.

Oncor representative Chris Scheine says strong winds knocked down 12 towers southeast of Cleburne, which has caused many of the outages.

Officials say those trees need to be removed before electric crews can repair the power lines and replace poles. Oak Cliff seemed to take the brunt of the damage.

In a statement, the City of Dallas Public Information Office said: "Damage in the City of Dallas appears to be limited to downed trees, downed power lines, and power outages. It is widespread across the city with a large number of the downed trees in the Southwest area of the City. "

A tree at 7th and Willomet in Oak Cliff was uprooted and destroyed part of the of the sidewalk. Also in Oak Cliff, the roof was ripped off the Plymouth House Apartment complex. Officials believe straight line winds caused this damage.

Fort Worth city officials have told residents to place all debris out on the curb. Crews will begin picking it up Monday - as part of the regular collection schedule.

Pickup will continue until all debris is cleared and that could take weeks.

Also in Tarrant County, classes at Nolan Catholic School have been cancelled due to power outages.

Students at Grapevine High School were sent home at 10:30 Thursday morning because the power at the school was still out.

Mountain View College in Dallas also closed on Thursday because of the power outage.

Mansfield City Hall will be closed for the day because it has no power, but all other city buildings in Mansfield are open, officials reported about 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

The students at Allen High School are being sent home because of no power, district officials report. Although there is no power at Flossie Green and Kerr elementary schools, classes are in session and officials say teachers are "getting creative in how they deal with no power."

In Dallas ISD, about 15 schools are affected by the power outage.

Classes are in session, district official report, but "an assessment will be made school-by-school with TXU on when power might return." Sandra Guerrero with DISD Communication Services said buses are on standby to move kids to another location if warranted. Food Services is prepared to feed students wherever, she added.

Dallas County Mountain View Community College was among those without power and will open at noon.

Authorities clocked winds at 75-90 mph Wednesday night and at the height of the storm, 300,000 customers were without power.

The Dallas Police Department and Dallas Fire Rescue report they responded to more than 100 storm-related calls Wednesday night.

Across the state, three people have died in the past three days during these spring storms

Two people died earlier this week, when lightning hit in Cameron, and outside of Halesburg.
Emergency crews responded to dozens of high water rescues throughout the state

In Bexar County one woman drowned Wednesday when her car became stuck in the runoff from an overflowing creek.

In North Texas, rescuers saved a woman after her car was swept up in 2 feet of water near Oak Knoll.