Northeast Ohio drivers frustrated as gas prices suddenly soar over $4 a gallon

Economist blames problems at US refineries

AKRON, Ohio - Northeast Ohio drivers fueling up on Wednesday were fuming as gas prices suddenly soared above $4 per gallon at some stations.

"I think they could lower them. I think they're gouging us a little bit," said Anthony Ondrus, 57, of Akron as he filled his tank at an Akron BP, where the posted price was $3.99.

According to numbers released on Wednesday by , area drivers are pay 22 cents more than that national average of $3.64.

A couple of gas stations in Akron and Cuyahoga Falls sold gas for $4.19, including Valero on Vernon Odom Boulevard.

John Jaber, manager of Valero, said he was forced to jack up his prices.

He explained that oil company he uses upped its price Tuesday evening to $3.98. In addition, Jaber said his station has to pay an additional 7 to 9 cents per gallon each time a customer uses a credit card, a fee charged by the banks.

"The (total) cost is $4.07, so how much you gonna sell the gas for?" he said.

Mike Nelson, professor of economics at the University of Akron, said the increase in gas prices is not related to the cost of crude oil.

"It seems to be tied to refinery problems here in the Midwest. There's maintenance issues. There have been outage issues primarily in the refineries in the the Midwest area here, Illinois and Kansas," Nelson said.

He believes the price jump will be temporary and will not continue to increase into the summer.

Elizabeth Barkley, an Akron home health aide who travels a lot for her job, hopes the economist is correct.

"I hope we don't get any higher through the summer or we'll all all be riding bikes or walking," Barkley said.

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