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$5.50 for gas has Illinois drivers stunned at fuel prices: ‘It’s frightening really’

Will County drivers shocked and some were resigned as they filled up their tanks in and around Joliet

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Steve Maragos said he was shocked to see how much it cost him to fill up his Lexus RX’s tank at a Thorntons gas station on Joliet’s west side on Thursday.

Maragos, who said he is a doctor who has to drive frequently, was afraid his cost for the fill-up would run close to $100, a mark he’s never hit before.

“It’s frightening really,” he said. “I’m actually worried.”

At the same gas station, where a gallon of regular gas was going for $5.50, Joliet resident Linda Christian was similarly baffled by the numbers on her receipt. She said with the average price of gas going up, she’s elected to drive less.

“I’m lucky,” Christian said. “I’m retired, so I can stay home, but it just cost me $50 to fill up a little Ford Focus.”

On Wednesday night, the price jolted up to $5.55 for regular at many northern Illinois stations after having been $4.85 a day earlier.

Ronaldo Acosta expressed resignation about the persistently high gas prices as his wife filled up their car at a Food4Less station in Crest Hill.

“It is what it is,” Acosta said, adding that he understood it was difficult to find a simple solution to a complicated problem.

Another customer at the same gas station who declined to give his name, summed up his feelings more succinctly.

“It sucks!” he said as he drove away.

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As of this week, the average price for a gallon of regular gas, including taxes, in the U.S. hit about $4.62, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, up from about $4.18 just one month before.

In Illinois, the average gallon cost about $5.30 as of Thursday, up from $4.46 a month ago, according to Gas Buddy, a website used to track the latest gas prices in a specific geographic area.

The average weekly price for a gallon of regular gas in the United States. hadn’t reached even $4 since 2008, according to EIA data.

Besides yielding collective groans, those every-increasing prices have prompted some action from lawmakers.

The Biden administration has released millions of barrels of oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve and suspended a federal rule preventing the sale of higher ethanol blend gas to try to ease the price pressure.

At the state level, Democratic lawmakers have touted measures passed in this the fiscal year 2023 budget to help residents amid rising inflation. A tax relief package approved by the General Assembly included a six-month pause on the automatic inflationary increase in the state’s motor fuel tax, estimated to be about 2 cents per gallon.

Still, the measure only stalled the increase and did not reduce the state’s tax on motor fuel which is used to fun infrastructure projects.

And Republican lawmakers have criticized the measures for not doing enough to help residents.

State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, proposed a bill to cap the sales taxes collected in Illinois on motor fuel, although the bill went nowhere in the House of Representatives.

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Even at the local level, Will County Board member Frankie Pretzel, R-New Lenox, has publicly called for the board to repeal or at least pause its 4-cent-per-gallon tax on motor fuel which went into effect in 2020. Still, his proposal has garnered little if any public response from other members and the Public Works Committee hasn’t taken it up for a vote.

“As a county board member, there’s not a lot we can do, but there is one thing we can do,” Pretzel said. “I scratch my head as to why we can’t even get this on the agenda.”

Even with policy proposals at the local, state and federal level, combating high gas prices goes far beyond public policy, said Michael Paone, the vice president of government affairs at the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce.

Paone said global events such as pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions and sanctions put on Russia for invading Ukraine have contributed to the pain at the pump. Plus, with summer coming, the busy travel season will only put more demand on the gas market.

While Paone said he’s “all for” reducing taxes, deeper remedies like investments in alternate fuel sources and domesticating parts of the supply chain could help but will take a long time to institute.

“Unfortunately it’s a massive puzzle that’s got multiple crumbled pieces,” Paone said.