WEST TOWN — Chicago’s already high gas prices are climbing again in a multi-day streak of record highs, forcing some small business owners to raise prices and commuters to look for workarounds to fill up their tanks.
The average gas price in Chicago was a record-high $5.76 per gallon Monday while three stations in the city reported regular gas prices above $6.50 per gallon, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices across the United States.
The prices spiked by an average of 46 cents per gallon in the last week, De Haan said. Chicago has recorded new all-time high gas prices every day since May 27, he said.
“It’s been an absolutely bonkers week. Gas prices have surged nationwide, a lot of that in the Great Lakes region,” De Haan said.
The rising prices are a “culmination of a lot of things going wrong at the same time,” De Haan said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian, COVID-19 limiting refineries and supply not keeping up with continued demand.
Gas supplies in the Great Lakes region are at their lowest since they started being tracked in 1990, De Haan said.
“There’s no end in sight at this moment to prices tapering off,” De Haan said.
Driver John Maher snapped a picture Monday of his meter at the BP on 1600 N. Elston Ave., where regular gas was $6.48 a gallon: $20 put less than three gallons in his Ford Edge SUV.
“I send the pictures to my mom in Florida, so she at least feels better about the prices there,” Maher said. “I’ve been dipping into the suburbs to get cheaper gas.”
Andy Paarlberg delivers pastries around the city in a company truck so the price of gas is a “necessary evil,” he said. It now costs around $200 to fill up the truck, compared to $100 during more typical times, Paarlberg said.
Driving around in a minivan full of carpets, cleaner Antonio Rodriguez said his typical fill-up now costs $120 every other day. His carpet cleaning company recently raised prices due to high fuel costs, Rodriguez said.
“It’s not fair to small businesses, and it’s not fair to anyone, actually,” Rodriguez said. “As a business, our expenses pretty much doubled, and that goes on the customers a little bit. Less people are booking services.”
Noor Othmane said he runs a refrigeration repair company and with gas prices surging, has been “waking up with a headache every morning.”
“When a customer calls, I have to drive. And every day the prices are rising up,” Othmane said. “We’re doing our best to survive. I have a wife and kids and insurance to pay. It’s high and it’s not fair.”
De Haan said there continues to be “healthy demand” for gas in Chicago even as prices have risen, which compounds the petroleum supply problem.
“Prices are going to keep going up until Chicagoans start cutting their consumption,” De Haan said. “We’ve seen very little evidence of that. So up and up we go.”
Asked Monday what relief the city offers for the soaring costs for gas and other basic necessities, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pointed to the $150 free gas card program for 50,000 residents, a plan which narrowly won City Council approval in April. The $12.5 million program, which also will add $50 to CTA Ventra cards for up to 100,000 people, will be funded by the city’s corporate fund.
The mayor also touted the city’s $500 monthly cash relief pilot, designed to benefit 5,000 households. Applications for that program are closed.
“There are a number of different things that we are doing and have been doing because we know, particularly coming out of the pandemic, that a lot of individuals and families are struggling” Lightfoot said at an unrelated press conference Monday. “We’ve done a lot with emergency rental assistance, we’ve done a lot with small businesses. … We have really tried to meet people where they were during this economic crisis occasioned by the downturn in the economy because of the pandemic-related closures.”
Block Club’s Atavia Reed contributed.
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