Gas guzzling

For sophomore Renee Ewings, gas prices are a weekly concern.

Ewings, a mother and commuting student, drives a minivan to transport all of her children. She also uses her vehicle to drive to UW-Eau Claire from her home in Cornell, which is about 40 miles from Eau Claire.

Ewings estimated that a full tank of gas now costs her between $50 and $55.

A full tank will last from Monday to Friday, she said, but then she has to fill up again on the weekend.

“I have to budget in gas every week as opposed to just stopping at the gas station and filling up,” she said.

Gas prices around the nation have gone up in recent weeks, with prices in Eau Claire hitting $2.19 for unleaded gasoline on Wednesday.

The retail price of gasoline raised an average of six cents nationwide last week. On Monday, the average price around the nation was $2.06, according to the Energy Department.

Average prices at the pump are 33.2 cents per gallon higher than they were last year.

Senior Heather Keehn said she started to become a little concerned when gas prices started rising again.

“I definitely think (gas prices are) too high,” she said. “I mean, even when it started creeping up toward $2 per gallon I thought it was ridiculous.”

Keehn said while she doesn’t like current prices, she sees no choice but to pay them.

“I have to drive to campus and I have to drive to work,” she said. “It’s hard to avoid it.”

Ewings has tried to make adjustments to her schedule so she does not have to use as much gas.

“I actually scheduled my classes so I have one day off this semester,” she said. “I intentionally took one three-hour (class) once a week … so I didn’t have to drive five days a week.”

However, she said she misses out on an optional anatomy lab held Thursday nights because she can’t afford to make the drive.

“I can’t afford it, so I miss out,” she said.

National energy analysts estimate gas prices will go up another 15 cents this spring, and that prices will hold above $2 through summer.

Ewings already plans on making adjustments next semester to help keep her gas bills down.

She said she hopes to squeeze all of her classes into three or four days to cut down on driving once again.

While some people may be considering smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles to help cope with current gas prices, Keehn said she doesn’t think that would help her.

“I have a Pontiac Sunfire,” she said. “It really couldn’t get much smaller than that.”

Ewings said she would like to get a smaller vehicle, but cannot afford to. For now, she will continue heading to the pumps with her van.

“I know it’s expensive, but I don’t always look at the price because it’s depressing,” she said. “I guess I would rather just fill up. I know that I have to.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.