The Toll of High Gas Prices: Two Stories
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
We're going to talk to two people now, whose businesses are directly affected by rising fuel prices. First, Rusty Thompson: he's a fifth-generation farmer in Versailles, Kentucky. He raises cattle and grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa and tobacco. Mr. Thompson, tell us where you are right now.
Mr. RUSTY THOMPSON (Fifth-Generation Farmer, Kentucky): We're out in the middle of the alfalfa fields right now. We're spraying the alfalfa for a insect pest called a alfalfa weevil.
BLOCK: And as you look around your farm there, I guess it becomes pretty clear that fuel is a pretty big part of everything you do.
Mr. THOMPSON: Oh everything, you know, everything is fuel-based. You know, the tractors, and all of the machines, our pickup trucks. We're a petroleum-driven industry.
BLOCK: How much is your fuel bill? How much has it gone up?
Mr. THOMPSON: Oh my, diesel fuel itself has gone up from $1.45, a year ago, and yesterday's farm price was $2.37. So it's gone up $0.93 and essentially the same with highway diesel. Tough, tough, you know, when it takes $75 to $80 to fill your pickup truck, that's a tough bite. And then you go fill the tractor up and that's a $150. A tractor fill-up will last one day.
BLOCK: Mr. Thompson, have you thought about ways of economizing, just saying, gosh, we're going to use less fertilizer this year, see what happens...
Mr. THOMPSON: Well...
BLOCK: ...are there other things you can do?
Mr. THOMPSON: ...we're looking at that, but we're just going to have to be a little bit better at not letting the tractors sit around in idle while we're doing an odd job. You know, just learn to turn the key on and off, maybe a little bit more, not run the tractors quite as hard. Because these big tractors they use a lot of fuel, you know, anywhere from five to 12 gallons per hour.
BLOCK: Wow. How much fuel do you go through in a week on the farm?
Mr. THOMPSON: I can see easily running a 100 gallon a day just through my two little tractors, easy. We're just going to have to put our heads together--our national energy policy--and try to come up with some alternative ways. Whether it's using a little more ethanol, a little biodiesel; whether it's electric, or hydro, or solar. We're going to have to put our thinking caps on. And that's going to be hard for our national leaders to do, I'm afraid.
BLOCK: I guess that doesn't help you right this second, does it?
Mr. THOMPSON: No it won't, no. Everything right now, I'm afraid, it's going to have to be long term. But in the short term, we're just going to have to bite the bullet.
BLOCK: Mr. Thompson, it's good to talk to you, thanks so much.
Mr. THOMPSON: All right, best of luck to you.
BLOCK: That's Rusty Thompson, a farmer in Versailles, Kentucky.
Roger Wethington is the owner of Fastimes Indoor Karting in Indianapolis. If you're 18 or older, you can pay $18 to drive a go-kart at about 40 miles an hour for eight minutes.
Mr. ROGER WETHINGTON, (Owner, Fastimes Indoor Karting, Indianapolis): Throughout the day, we will fill these cars up a couple of times. They hold about three gallons of gas. So, we use a quite a big percentage of fuel every week.
BLOCK: How much do you use?
Mr. WETHINGTON: I use approximately 200, 250 gallons a week.
BLOCK: So when gas prices are going up, you're going to feel that?
Mr. WETHINGTON: I feel the pinch, yeah (laughing).
BLOCK: Have you thought about raising prices?
Mr. WETHINGTON: I lose a couple sleepless nights, you know, probably every month about it, yes. I have not raised it, I've just--I've been taking the hit.
BLOCK: Why don't you just bump it up a little bit?
Mr. WETHINGTON: That day's coming (laughing), just--I've been trying to, trying to do my thing to give back to my fellow man. You know, give him a place to play, and not pass it onto him, yet. And, obviously, if it keeps going up, I'm going to have to pass it on.
BLOCK: Could you go electric?
Mr. WETHINGTON: Well, electric is an option, but, you know, Indianapolis 500 being here, it's--these people believe in gas more than they believe in electric anything here.
BLOCK: You know, Mr. Wethington, do you ever stop and think, with gas prices this high and with fuel at a premium the way it is, maybe I'm just in the wrong line of work. Maybe this isn't how we should be using up gas?
Mr. WETHINGTON: Well, you know, and I have to be concerned about whether or not if have a business that is against the ecology of the world. I try to take that in consideration in everything that I do. So I recycle at home, and so why do I consume something that doesn't necessarily have to be consumed? But, on the other hand, I think that there are a lot of people out there that need something to do to entertain themselves. And this is, unfortunately, something that we do for selfish reasons.
BLOCK: So how do you, how do you resolve that for yourself then?
Mr. WETHINGTON: I try, everywhere in my life, to save as much fuel as I personally can. I drive one of the smallest cars on the market. So I try to give back those types of ways. But, unfortunately, my business is a fuel-driven business. And there's a lot of fuel-driven businesses out there that I don't think are going to go out of business, or quit, because fuel gets expensive.
BLOCK: Mr. Wethington, thanks very much for talking with us.
Mr. WETHINGTON: Not a problem.
BLOCK: Roger Wethington is the owner of Fastimes Indoor Karting in Indianapolis. By the way, he drives a Mini Cooper. We also talked with farmer Rusty Thompson in Versailles, Kentucky.
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