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Volume 71, Issue 12, Wednesday, September 7, 2005


Soaring gas prices cause inconvenience to UH students

By Melissa Barrera
The Daily Cougar

The constantly rising gas prices that are leaving many Houstonians feeling an economic pinch at the pump also plagues many UH students who are finding that stresses in the daily commute now extend far beyond the average gripes over traffic jams.

Five Gulf Coast refineries completely shut down last week because of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, and several other refineries are now operating at reduced production levels, causing the delivery of fuel to many cities to slow and gas prices to surge all along the South.

Gas prices are now starting the $3-a-gallon price mark straight in the eye, and many students are finding the cost of gas too much to bear, especially when driving to school proves to be the only option.

"My gas has doubled since I started going to school here, and it eats up my college funding," said history senior Jennifer Schimank, who lives just outside The Woodlands, a North Harris County community.

Schimank makes a 55-mile daily drive to get to school in her Cadillac, which requires the use of premium grade gas. Although she spent most of her summer staying out of the city and riding with friends when she could, she now must make the costly trek to campus, no matter how much she must spend.

Pre-business junior Ashley Shaw, who lives in Santa Fe, a small town near Texas City, also has had to make enormous sacrifices because of the rising cost of gas. 

"I couldn't take summer classes because the drive was too long," Shaw said. "I have two years (of school) left, and I might have to change schools."

Shaw, like many other students living on the outskirts of Houston and making a costly commute, is rethinking her driving habits because of the surge in gas prices. On average she drives more than 160 miles back and forth to school every week, and the cost of the trip is causing her to reconsider where she will finish out her undergraduate education.

Digital media a photography senior Ashley Shutter has begun to limit her driving to only when absolutely necessary as a means of coping with a large gas bill. She doesn't joy ride anymore and said that making the commute from her Clear Lake home is easier when the cost of driving is split.

"I think gas prices are ridiculous," Shutter said. "Carpooling has cut down my costs, and I drive less."

Within the past week alone, gas prices have risen from a citywide average to $2.99 from $2.69 per gallon, with prices often spiking in the middle of the afternoon and hitting $3.20 in some parts of Harris County.

Though prices of gasoline remained steady during the Labor Day weekend, with many suppliers trying to keep the cost just under $3, the full effects of the damage to the refineries along the gulf coast have yet to be seen. 

With no visible end to the continual gas price rise in sight, UH students, and Houstonians in general, may be hard pressed to find alternative means of transportation next time they approach the pump. 

With additional reporting by Ashley Anthony, Amanda D'Angelo, David Tong, and Luci Rodriguez

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