Donald Schneider pumped about $59 worth of gasoline into his Honda Odyssey minivan Monday afternoon.
It's more than he can afford since he's a widower without health insurance. Schneider needs a minivan to haul around his kidney dialysis equipment. He could choose to stay home most of the time, but he still enjoys getting out of the house and doing things.
"I put $50 into the car Friday," he said. "I went to Fresno and back."
Like everyone else who drives a car or truck, Schneider is affected by the ever-increasing gas prices. He filled up at the Quik Stop Market at Church and Lockeford streets, which had one of the lowest prices in Lodi on Monday — $4.09 for regular unleaded gasoline and $4.29 for premium. However, the prices increased to $4.17 and $4.37, respectively, over the course of Monday evening.
But if you go for the name brands, it's quite a bit steeper these days. On Monday, it cost $4.23 per gallon for regular and $4.53 for premium at a Lodi Shell station. At a Chevron station in town, prices ranged from $4.29 to $4.49 per gallon.
"I think the people with the lowest income will be affected," Lodi resident Judy Berigtold said while filling up at Quik Stop. "Lower income people and middle income people will get it in the tushie."
Tony Alegre, owner of Alegre Trucking, said he expects gas prices to reach $4.40 to $4.60 per gallon within a week. That's because of increases he sees by oil speculators predicting the ever-increasing volatile conditions in the Middle East, Alegre said.
For truckers, diesel prices went from the $3.60 to $3.70 range a month ago to about $4.10 per gallon this week, he added.
"There is no (oil) supply shortage," said Alegre, who added that gas prices would be 40 to 50 cents lower if they were based strictly on supply and demand.
While some oil experts predict $5 per gallon by summer, Matt Skryja from the California State Automobile Association says that such predictions are premature.
"It's crazy," Galt resident Tammy Miller said as she filled up her Ford F-150 truck at Quik Stop. "But what can we do? You don't get an increase in pay."
Thinking about vacation plans, Miller said she has to think about whether to take a shorter trip or find a different mode of transportation to get there.
CSAA representative Skryja said that people should continue to enjoy a vacation.
"Go wherever you want; just keep (the cost of gas) in mind," Skryja said.
The rising gas prices will also affect children going to and from school.
Karen Schauer, superintendent of the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, said that the district will somehow manage to continue its current bus service for the remainder of the school year.
However, district administrators and trustees will have to take a hard look at whether to reduce bus service when school resumes in August. A majority of the children who take the school bus in Galt are low-income, Schauer said. Districts have already reduced the number of field trips due to budget cuts, even before gas prices skyrocketed during the past month.
In the short term, prices will continue to trickle upward, Skryja said, but the market is too fickle to accurately predict how much prices will go up in the future.
California's gas prices are generally 25 cents higher than the national average, mainly because of higher gasoline taxes and the state requiring extra additives to reduce pollution during the warmer months.
Typically, the highest gas prices in California are in the Eureka and South Lake Tahoe areas, Skryja said, but to prove that you never know where spikes will be, it was San Diego and Long Beach that had among the highest prices a week ago.
Alegre said that people will pay more than just at the gas pump. When you buy groceries, food prices will be higher because of the increased gas cost for truckers to get merchandise to the store. Customers can expect to see higher food prices in 30 to 60 days, he added.
Teresi Trucking in Lodi, whose customers tend to be those with high-mile transportation needs, sometimes includes a fuel surcharge in the contract. If the cost of gas goes up, it's built into the amount Teresi charges the customer, Administration Manager Todd Teresi said.
In the short term, truckers will be hurting because they have already signed contracts with customers based on lower fuel prices, Alegre said. But in the future, Alegre will be able to pass the cost onto the customer.
"I think it will affect everybody all the way around," Miller said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.