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$5 a gallon gas fears
Gasoline soars 40 cents a gallon in one week at some locales
Larry Singh prepares to gas up his Chevrolet Camaro at the Chevron station on the corner of Louise Avenue and Union Road. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Eleta Noah’s husband made the ultimate sacrifice when he traded in his diesel-powered Dodge pickup truck for a Mini Cooper to save money on what at the time seemed like exorbitant gas prices.

So there isn’t much wiggle room left for the Manteca family when it comes to sparing cents at the pump.

And when Noah saw gas prices inching higher each day over t the last week – as much as 40 cents a gallon in some places - she couldn’t help but feel angry at what she was seeing. The spike in gas prices is a national trend that has attracted the attention of presidential candidates and was the focus of a speech delivered Thursday by President Barack Obama.

“It’s just ridiculous. I’ve never seen prices go up that quickly,” she said while helping her son out with a tank of gas at the Chevron station on the corner of Union Road and Louise Avenue. “I’m fortunate – I only work in Lathrop and fill up once every two weeks. But my husband commutes to the Bay Area and we already downgraded to a smaller car for this very reason.

“We’ve got a trip planned to Long Beach coming up and I’m just dreading the thought of what that’s going to cost.”

Across the street at the Quik Stop Market, a fuel truck finishes filling the 10,000 gallon tanks beneath the pumping aisles that were packed full of cars trying to save a few dollars on gas that is always a little bit cheaper than its rival business on the opposite corner.

But that doesn’t mean that customers are happy to be doing so.

According to owner Gurnath Singh, regular customers have not only recognized the steady increase over the last week but they’ve voiced their opinions as well.

“They’re mad. They notice the change in the prices,” Singh said. “We get a phone call from corporate telling us what the prices are going to be. People have come in after a few days and noticed the increase in price, and they can’t believe it.”

Oil speculators are blaming unrest in the Middle East – primarily worry over Iran’s nuclear program and the instability that it’s causing in the region – on the sudden spike in prices.

With California’s peak driving season yet to come, the time of year when gas prices tend to reach their highest point, worries abound that prices could reach $5 a gallon by the end of the summer.

For Jack Martin, however, the fluctuation of gas prices just comes with the territory and a built-in cushion in his budget should get him through and give him enough to cover his commute to the Bay Area.

“I can’t say that I’m happy with it, but it’s something that we’ve gotten used to here,” Martin said. “They go up and they go down and they go up again. I’m hoping they’ll go back down again before the summer, but if they don’t I’ll just have to cut back on the recreational driving I do. It’s par for the course.”