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Pain at the pump arrives early this year in county

Randy Carls has received positive feedback from customers in the two months after opening a Campton Hills gas station and convenience store, the Outpost Marathon station on Route 64, just west of LaFox Road.

“Our customer base has been growing by the day,” said Carls, president of Hinckley-based Carls Oil Company. “We’ve really appreciated the response of the people here in Campton Hills.

“People really seem to appreciate what we’ve added to the community.”

But in the past month, Carls said the comments about the store also have been accompanied by concern about the price of the primary product the station sells – gasoline.

“Believe me, I hate it, too, just as much as anyone,” Carls said. “Because I have to pay for it just like everyone else.”

In the past month, gas station operators in Kane County and elsewhere have been the bearers of bad news for motorists because the price of fuel has quickly increased.

Monday, the price of regular unleaded gasoline in the Tri-Cities and nearby communities in Kane County stood around $3.95 a gallon.

Throughout the Chicago area, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded stood at $4.05 a gallon, according to the AAA Motor Club’s Daily Fuel Gauge report. That represented an increase of about 19 percent from one month ago, when gas sold for an average of $3.41 a gallon.

Gas prices normally begin to rise in mid-spring in preparation for the onset of summer driving season and the switch to cleaner burning summer fuel blends. But this year, the price rise came weeks earlier than normal, said Pete Mancini, president of St. Charles-based fuel distributor and gas station operator Parent Petroleum.

“It seems like the last three years, the price rise has come earlier and earlier,” Mancini said. “And this one is the earliest yet.”

Mancini said the price increase seems to be tied to the price of crude oil from which the gasoline is refined.

The price of benchmark commodity West Texas Intermediate crude has increased since mid-December from around $85 a barrel to about $97 a barrel, an increase of 14 percent, according to spot price data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Mancini said there is “no shortage” in the supply of gasoline or any sudden spikes in demand.

Mancini and Carls said they expect customer complaints will increase with the price of fuel.

Mancini said he expects it will top $4 a gallon locally soon and may push higher still. He thinks it will stop short of the local record of around $4.50 a gallon.

“When you start hitting that $4, $4.10 mark, people really start complaining,” Mancini said. “And you start feeling the pinch because it hurts to put $60 into your fuel tank at one time.”

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