Pain at the pump for consumers, boon for oil operators

Stephens County_With the summer driving season almost upon us, many are worried about gasoline prices.  Analysts say we're going to see the price of $4 per gallon in the coming weeks, just as the oil companies already are reaping huge profits.  However, the price increase has created new challenges for those in the oil business.

Donald Johnson has a lawn to take care of, but filling up his gas can is costing a lot more because of the latest hike in petrol prices.  "I think they're outrageous," he said.  He's not the only one, but it's all in your perspective.  Despite the hardship most people say they're enduring, the increase in gas prices is a bit of good luck for others.

David Moore is a geologist and an oil operator in Duncan.  "It's what I love to do.  I love to look for oil and gas," he said.  Ten years ago, when gasoline prices were relatively low, he almost was forced out of business.  "The whole industry was going through bad times," said Moore.  Nearly ten years ago, he was facing a dire situation.  "If things don't change, there won't be an oil business in the United States," he said back then.

But, the situation changed, and in February, 1999, oil was selling for less than $10 per barrel.  Currently, the price of a barrel is more than $120 - and, it's expected to increase even more before the summer is over.  On the other hand, Moore is quick to point out that he doesn't set price.  "Back when it was $8 a barrel, there was nothing I could do to drive that price up," he said.  Now that prices are so high, there's nothing I can do to drive that price down."

It's not all good news for the oil businesses.  Along with the prices at the pump, other product prices in his business have also increased.  "Even though we're making more money for our product, it's still costing us more money to find that product," Moore said.

There are several factors that affect the price of fuel.  For instance, it's costing more than ever for oil producers to discover new oil, and when they dig, sometimes they strike "black gold," and sometimes they don't.  Either way, it costs them big bucks, and many of the sites that were once producing oil are drying up.  "There's only so much oil in the ground," Moore said.

Moore says the main problem right now is dwindling supplies versus increasing demand.  "As long as we're dependent on oil, it's gonna be higher, and gasoline prices will be higher also."  Moore's news isn't much comfort for local drivers who say that something has to give.